updated 01:40 pm EST, Wed January 27, 2010
Expands on iPhone conventions
After much speculation Apple has officially announced the iPad, the company's first tablet device. The hardware resembles an oversized iPhone, but uses a dramatically altered version of the iPhone interface, borrowing tropes from Mac OS X such as a Dock, floating windows and a desktop background. Apps on the device are much more elaborate, for instance allowing Mail to display both a list of messages and a preview pane at the same time, or Calendar to show an entire month.
The tablet is half an inch thin, and uses a 9.7-inch IPS display, with a 1GHz Apple A4 processor, and 16 to 64GB of flash storage. It also includes an accelerometer, compass, microphone, built-in speakers and wireless in the form of 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and 3G. The unit's battery is said to last a month on standby, and 10 hours when running video.
Apple also describes the iPad as media-focused, for instance allowing better control of video through both scrubbing and chapter selects. Apps are delivered via the App Store, and can be run either at normal size or magnified to the full dimensions of the screen. Developers can already download a new SDK from the Apple website, which will allow titles to be customized explicitly for iPad support.
The hardware should for instance be capable of better 3D-rendered games, and the New York Times has confirmed the existence of a new iPad-enabled iPhone app with photo and video viewers. An app by Steve Sprang, Brushes, allows more complex illustration with tools like layer and palette windows. MLB has announced the existence of an updated app with game information overlays.
Apple itself is introducing iBooks, an app which turns the iPad into an e-book reader. The title uses a bookshelf metaphor, and has its own store, which will be stocked with material from publishers like Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette. It further relies on the ePub format, meaning that downloaded titles are not exclusive to Apple products.
Complementing the iPad is a new, portable version of the iWork suite, including Keynote, Pages and Numbers, all designed for a multi-touch interface.
Only some models of the iPad will be 3G-enabled, and in turn require a $15 monthly fee with AT&T for 250MB of data, or $30 for unlimited access. Unlimited AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot service is included with either plan.
Prices for tablets without 3G are $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. Models tied to AT&T will cost $629, $729 and $829, respectively. The former will ship in 60 days, to be followed by the 3G units in another 30.