The Apple iPad has finally arrived.
After months of buzz about a tablet-style touchscreen personal computer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs today announced the company's new iPad. Before the famed CEO even opened his mouth to say a word, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Calling it a "truly magical product," Jobs said the device could let users browse the Web, send e-mail, share photos, watch videos, listen to music, play games and read e-Books.
The "iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical & revolutionary device at an unbelievable price," the Apple CEO said in a statement.
Much like an iPhone, the iPad has a touch screen that zooms in and out of Web sites and a virtual keyboard. It also orients to portrait or landscape viewing, depending on how you hold it.
Jobs said it will be half-an-inch thick and weigh in at 1.5 pounds. It will have a 9.7-inch display and include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
When Jobs said the iPad will have a 10-hour battery life, applause burst from the audience.
And the price? Though analysts expected the device to cost between $800 and $1000, Jobs said, "I am thrilled to announce to you that the iPad pricing starts not at $999, but $499."
Wi-Fi-only versions of the iPad cost $499 for the 16BG model, $599 for the 32 GB model and $699 for the 64 GB model.
Devices equipped to run on AT&T's wireless 3G network cost an extra $130 and run from $629 for the 16 GB model to $829 for the 64GB model.
Jobs said that though the iPad will run on AT&T's cellular network, contracts are not required. Data plans start at $14.99 per month for up to 250 MB, and an unlimited data plan costs $29.99 plus free use of AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots.
He said the iPads will ship in 60 days. It will run iPhone apps on the fullscreen and emphasize gaming. But he continued on to show off its talents as an e-reader.
Demonstrating a New York Times app for the iPad, Jobs said it "captures the essence of reading the Times." In addition to maintaining the typography and columns, it integrates video and navigation tools.
As many analysts suspected, Jobs also announced a new iBooks application that will allow iPad users to download books and publications from a wide range of partners, including Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and MacMillan.
Earlier this month, the company e-mailed invitations to reporters asking them to come view what it called "our latest creation".
Though Apple was characteristically quiet on details before today's unveiling, industry watchers said all signs seemed to point to the announcement of a device so hyped it had been dubbed the "Jesus" tablet.
It remains to be seen whether or not the iPad will actually work any miracles, but analysts said that on many fronts Apple didn't disappoint today.
"I think it's met expectations on design, it's met expectations on function and content," said Rob Enderle, the principal analyst at Enderle Group. But he added that consumers could struggle with the size of the device and the fact that users won't be able to view it outdoors like they can Amazon's Kindle.
He said that when Amazon launched the similarly-sized Kindle DX, consumers didn't respond favorably to the screen, which was between that of a pocket-sized smartphone and fuller-function notebook.
He also said that though the $499 starting price tag is good news, the partnership with AT&T could be a problem.