Apple showed off its much-anticipated tablet computer, a multimedia, Internet-enabled slate that could fuel the next leg of growth for the CE innovator. Dubbed the iPad, the tablet will be used to browse the web, read email, read books and play games. It’s positioned as something between a smartphone and laptop. The device will also work with the iTunes store.
“We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product today,” CEO Steve Jobs, wearing his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, told the crowd. He added that Apple was now the world’s largest mobile company and that iPad will help increase the distance.
The 16-gigabyte iPad will retail for $499, the 32-gigabyte version for $599 and the 64-gigabyte model for $699. With Wi-Fi and 3G, the 16-gigabyte tablet will sell for $629, the 32-gigabyte version for $749 and the 64-gigabyte model for $829.
“It’s so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone,” Jobs said.
He demonstrated how the iPad is used for surfing the Web with Apple’s Safari browser. He typed an e-mail using an on-screen keyboard and flipped through photo albums by flicking his finger across the screen. Jobs said iPad will also be better for reading books, playing games and watching video than either a laptop or a smart phone.
“Apple has to create a new category here — that’s something it has not done in more than two decades,” Forrester Research analysts Charles Golvin and James McQuivey wrote in a blog. “It’s a computer without a keyboard, it’s a digital reader with poor battery life and a high price tag, and it’s a portable media player that can’t fit in a pocket.”
Analysts say pricing will be key. Estimates for the tablet range from $600 to $1,000, excluding any potential subsidies from wireless carriers, with Verizon Wireless believed to be the carrier, according to a CNBC story.
iPad comes after months of speculation in the technology trades and blogosphere—most had thought it would be called “iSlate.” Photos of mock-ups appeared on popular blogs months ago and reporters followed every link in Apple’s supply chain to uncover details. The product’s launch has been built into forecasts of the company’s performance by Wall Street analysts since at least November, said WSJ.
The introduction comes just two days after Apple announced its best-ever quarterly profits and revenue. Apple shares have more than doubled over the last year, hitting an all-time high of $215.59 on Jan. 5. On Wednesday, Apple shares rose 1% to close at $207.88. Some analysts see the company’s shares rising as high as $285 over the next 12 months.