After a long run of rumors and speculation, Apple has announced another tier to its hardware strategy--its touch screen-enabled computing tablet, the "iPad."
Apple chief exec Steve Jobs officially unveiled the new gadget at a special event in San Francisco on Wednesday morning, live-blogged by gadget site Gizmodo
Equipped with a multi-touch screen and accelerometers like its little brothers, the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad has drawn some interest from game makers as well. Existing iPhone games can be run on the iPad with no modification, either centered in the screen at original resolution, or pixel-doubled to cover about two-thirds of the screen.
Jobs said the screen is a 9.7-inch IPS display, and the device is half an inch thick and weighs 1.5 pounds. The device is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, and the exec said the battery can last up to 10 hours per charge.
Joining Apple at the event were game makers including Gameloft, responsible for App Store games including the recently-released Halo-esque N.O.V.A.
The developer had version of the game running on the iPad on stage. Electronic Arts was also on hand to show a handsome version of Need for Speed
running on the iPad.
Jobs described the tablet as a middle ground between a consumer's portable gadgets, "something that's between a laptop and smart phone." Jobs, who demonstrated the iPad's comfort factor by using it while seated cross-legged on a love seat, said, "It's so much more intimate than a laptop."
The iPad will also sport wireless networking, but some models will have 3G as well. Data plans for 3G models are done through AT&T: $15 per month for a 250MB data plan and $30 a month for unlimited data. Jobs said there are no contracts and users can cancel at any time.
Pricing for the iPad lands in between iPods and Macbooks. Wi-fi-only iPads cost $499, $599, and $699 for 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB variants, respectively. Models with wi-fi and 3G go for $629, $729, and $829.
The iPhone and iPod Touch have already created closer relationships between Apple and major game makers like Electronic Arts and Sega. Prior to the iPad's official unveiling, EA Sports president Peter Moore said of the device's gaming potential, "If it's got a great screen, some buttons, you can turn it on and it connects to the Internet, it's got the ability to be a games machine," Bloomberg reported
. (Like the iPhone, the device features only one button, used to return to its home screen.)
Jobs showed off movie viewing, iTunes access, map viewing, eBooks, and web-browsing on the device, among other functions. The iPad is able to turn on its side, like the iPod and iPhone, with the screen automatically adjusting for better web viewing. Gamasutra will have more on the iPad later today.
Pricing, gaming, and functionality details added. Updated picture courtesy of Gizmodo