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."
iPad to Run on AT&T Network But With No Contract
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.
Did Apple iPad Meet Expectations?
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.
"We saw the iPhone bring AT&T to its knees," he said. "The iPad could create real traffic problems."
Since the launch of the iPhone, users have complained of problems with the network, including dropped calls and low data speeds. But in a call with investors this week, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said the company had reviewed AT&T's plans to improve the network and had "high confidence that they will make significant progress toward fixing them."
Ross Rubin, a consumer technology analyst for NPD Group and ABCNews.com columnist, said "coming in under $500 is a key price point that allows it to be in the competitive pricing set of netbooks."
Though the iPad isn't "rooted in any existing category," Rubin said it still overlaps with the netbook and could potentially attract consumers already interested in the lighter, smaller laptop sibling.
The device is much like the iPhone and iPod Touch, and builds on the architecture and developer support of those devices, but Rubin said it's also optimal for different kinds of media experiences.
"It's a sitting down scenario, as opposed to the standing up scenario" associated with the iPhone, he said. Though it may not be as portable as the iPhone, he said the iPad could provide better reading and Web browsing and excellent in-vehicle movie and TV-watching experiences.
Analyst: iTunes Is 'Engine' That Allows People to Get Most Out of Tablet
Though other e-Readers, such as Amazon's Kindle, have already hit the market and a crush of new tablet-style computers are expected to arrive in the coming months, some analysts said Apple has something that its competitors lack.
"100 million plus active iTunes users. That is essentially the engine that allows people to really get the most out of a device like this," Gene Munster, a senior research analyst with Piper Jaffray, told ABCNews.com before today's big event.
Though rivals might offer sophisticated hardware, he said that creating an experience that manages the flow of media into the device is a challenge that has been mastered, thus far, only by Apple.
And, he added, arriving to the scene a little bit later than competitors is nothing new for Apple.
The iPod revolutionized music about four years after the first mp3 players and iPhone's popularity surged about five years after the first smart phones were introduced, he said.
Tablets Not New to Market but Could Apple Make Them Mainstream?
Though tablets were introduced to the market about 20 years ago, they have mostly been relegated to niche professional markets. Some analysts say Apple could be the company to make them mainstream.
In an interview before today's event, Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, said that given Apple's aptitude for "consumerizing technology," the company is well-positioned to successfully bring the tablet to the consumer market. Though other companies might offer similar products from a hardware perspective, he said Apple is known for its intuitive operating systems and user interfaces.
He also said that unlike most other companies, Apple doesn't just provide hardware and software but creation tools and services. Third party developers could take Apple's toolkit and run with it, potentially creating a "killer app" that could make tablets indispensable, he said.
"While we in the industry could speculate all day long about what we can do with it, the fact is if you introduce a new platform and give developers new tools, it's surprising how they create the next innovative products," he said.
Apple Shares Slide After iPad Announcement, Then Recover
Apple shares rose $1.94, or .94 percent, to close Wednesday at $207.88. Though the stock price fell to a daytime low soon after Jobs' unveiling of the iPad, it recovered after he announced the $499 price.
Though some industry watchers had anticipated a device as game-changing as the iPhone, many of those expectations were modified after the Apple event.
"It wasn't as overwhelmingly innovative as we'd hoped for," said Scott Steinberg, publisher of technology news Web site Digital Trends. "It's impressive, but it's essentially a bigger iPod Touch."
While he said the iPad marked an important stride forward and featured an aggressive price, he said the more ambitious elements he'd hope for – such as video-conferencing and more on-demand content options – were missing from the presentation.
"It's Apple, so I won't rule anything out," he said. But "whether or not this is going to capture the public's imagination, that's the question."