Rumors of an Apple tablet device have buzzed the Internet for years, and the storied iPod maker finally shook the globe yesterday by unveiling the iPad—a new mobile device that's part laptop, part iPod, part e-book reader and all style. Looking like an iPhone on steroids, this sleek tech toy is roughly the size of a sheet of computer paper, is only half an inch thick and weighs a svelte 1.5 pounds. It sports a 9.7-inch touchscreen display using Apple's refined multi-touch interface that's made the iPhone and iPod Touch wildly popular.
The iPad falls in the space between an iPhone and a full laptop: You get a one-stop shop for browsing the Web, looking at pictures and videos, watching movies and listening to music, but all in a larger package that lets you see and do more at once. Send e-mails and zip across the Internet using the iPad's on-screen soft keyboard, or jump on the iTunes Store and grab the latest tunes and flicks. The iPad also can use nearly all of the more than 140,000 different apps, games and more on the legendary App Store, and new apps designed exclusively for the iPad put the larger screen and power to good use.
Apple then went further by announcing the iBooks app for the device, granting access to the brand new iBookstore marketplace for digital copies of books from major and independent publishers. With this move, Apple throws its hat into the ring with heavyweights such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony, whose e-reader devices (such as the Amazon Kindle) have been rapidly growing in popularity.
This little wonder is perfect for browsing online or reading a good book on the couch, but you can also take it on the go. The iPad doesn't feature phone service like the iPhone, but it does have Wi-Fi Internet access and—in a landmark deal between Apple and AT&T—certain models feature 3G connectivity that lets you go online anywhere for as little as $15 a month with no annual contracts! You can buy a brand new book and start reading, all while on the bus or out in the park.
The iPad will be available worldwide starting in March, with 3G-enabled models following shortly in April. Six different models of iPad are available (in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB flavors, either Wi-Fi only or with both Wi-Fi and 3G) and start at $499—a price tag, by the way, that falls far short of what most analysts expected.
So, what's the verdict? Are you planning to buy an iPad?