Live from San Francisco: Apple iPad announced!

Moments ago, Apple CEO and uber-evangelist Steve Jobs put the rumours to rest with the announcement of the Apple iPad. The GadgetGuy team is here in San Francisco reporting as events unfold.

In concordance with the rumour mill, the iPad fits into the ‘tablet’ category, and incorporates 25cm colour LED backlit display, without a physical keyboard. Instead, the device relies on Apple’s multi-touch technology – the same interface as Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch – as the primary means of interacting with the device. There’s an on-screen keyboard which appears in both landscape and portrait modes.

Details were sketchy about the internal processor, only that is made by Apple, called the ‘A4’ and graphics is integrated into the CPU. There is a choice of 16, 32 or 64GB of solid-state memory onboard. The embedded rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery is not user-removable – and Jobs proudly announced a charge time of 10 hours.

The iPad is encased in aluminium, and appears to use the same ‘uni-body’ construction as Apple’s MacBook Pro notebooks to improve durability and strength. In fact, the design of the iPad is like an enlarged iPhone, with a black front and aluminium back, with a single function button. The 9.7 inch LED backlit screen has a resolution of 1,024 x 768 and appeared to be quite bright on first looks.

The iPad looks to run a new version of the iPhone 0S – version 4, and has the ability to run existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications. Essentially, the iPad is happy to run anything that an iPhone or iPod Touch can, and you can view the apps in their original size, or the iPad will upscale the application to full screen. We looked at EA’s Need For Speed Shift, and it played very smoothly. The iPad also has a built-in accelerometer, so steering the game was via tilting the iPad left and right.

The Apple iPad

Jobs intends the iPad to be used mainly for portable web-browsing and checking emails, along with plenty of media consumption including playing music, watching TV and movies, and reading e-books. A new iBook app and download platform was announced, which is sort of like iTunes for books. Jobs said that Apple has partnered with 5 of the world’s largest publishers, so we expect to see lots of book choices. Otherwise, for videos, apps and music would be available via Apple’s popular iTunes service.

For connecting to networks, there’s Wi-Fi (802.11n) support, and, on some versions of the iPad, users can download content through 3G mobile phone networks, similar to the Amazon Kindle. No Australian telco deals have been announced yet, but in the US, AT&T is offering a 250MB plan for $14.99 and an unlimited plan for just under $US30.

Jobs was quick to announce that the iPad will be sold internationally. In the US, prices for the base unit, which has 16GB of RAM and no 3G is just $499. Moving upwards, prices for varying configuration of memory and 3G support max out at $890 for 64GB and 3G support. The units will being to ship in 60 days, although no specific Australian prices or shipping dates have been released yet.

Watch this space for more developments.