Touch-screen iPad aimed at gap in computer market

 

APPLE’S STEVE Jobs unveiled the iPad, a new class of tablet computer that sits in the gap between mobile phones and laptops, at a packed event in San Francisco yesterday.

The iPad, the release of which had prompted fevered speculation among technology fans, is a touchscreen computer designed for browsing the web, managing e-mail, viewing pictures and videos, listening to music, playing games and reading electronic books.

Just half an inch (1.27cm) thick and weighing 1.5 lbs (680g), it has a screen that measures 9.7 inches (24.6cm) across the diagonal. This makes it lighter and thinner than any PC currently on the market.

“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Mr Jobs, who resumed his role as Apple chief executive following a liver transplant last year. “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”

It will run “almost all” of the 140,000 pieces of software available on Apple’s online AppStore, which has proved to be one of the major selling points of the Californian company’s iPhone.

The iPad will connect to the internet using wireless Wi-Fi technology. It will also have an option to use 3G mobile phone technology, meaning it is connected while travelling, and not just in the home or public locations where Wi-Fi is available.

It will go on sale in the US in late March. Pricing will depend on the amount of storage, with an entry level model featuring 16GB storage and Wi-Fi networking costing $499 (€355). The top specification is a 64GB model with 3G connectivity for $829 (€590).

Mr Jobs said the device would be available internationally, which is likely to include Ireland, in the “June or July timeframe”.

The iPad will be able to access Apple’s iTunes service to download music, podacasts and videos.

In a departure for Apple, the iPad will have the ability to read electronic books, challenging online retailer Amazon and Japanese electronics maker Sony, which have dominated this space.

Apple has done deals with publishers Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette to provide books for the device through its iBookstore service.

Mr Jobs also showcased the gaming potential of iPad and, in a surprise move, announced the availability of iWork, a suite of productivity applications such as spreadsheets and presentation software.

Apple claims the iPad’s rechargeable battery will last for up to 10 hours between charges.