Apple introduces the iPad, its tablet computer

By Steve Safran 

The wait is over. The long-anticipated Apple tablet is alive, and it’s called the iPad. Today, Apple introduced the device, which plenty of people are already calling “an iPhone on steroids.” Certainly, it looks like the iPhone’s bigger brother. The big difference is that you can’t make phone calls or send text messages from the iPad.

The iPad has a 9.7 inch (measured on the diagonal) screen, weighs a pound and a half and is a half-inch thick. One of the things I noticed right away is how much black space there is around the perimeter of the screen. I would have thought Apple would have the picture go closer to the edge. There are six models in all, ranging in price from $499 to $829, depending on the amount of storage you want and whether you want 3G capability; all the iPads work with WiFi, but the more expensive models work with 3G as well. AT&T will offer unlimited 3G data for $29.99 a month, or $14.99 for 250 Mb/month.

Among the more notable news here as well is that Apple is getting into the e-book business. Its iBooks software and store are reminiscent of iTunes. The software interfaces look spiffy. Mail, iTunes and Calendar all have iPad-centric looks.

The iPad is powered by apps, just as the iPhone is. The iPhone apps will work on the iPad, and supposedly will look good at full-screen size. Sure to get attention from the publishing industry is the demonstration of how it will look to read a special version of The New York Times on the iPad.

For typing, a virtual keyboard pops up on the bottom of the screen when you turn it lengthwise. It’s the same idea as the iPhone, except it should be big enough to type with all your fingers, not just your thumbs or pointer fingers. I’m still not convinced a virtual keyboard will be satisfying. However, there is a more conventional keyboard solution. Apple is introducing a couple of nifty docks. One holds the tablet upright. The other comes with an attached keyboard.

The iPad works on the same operating system as the iPhone. This is more inside baseball than you may need to know, but it has a 1 GHz processor and up to 64 GB of flash memory. That’s decent – but video takes up memory very quickly. The processor speed is slower than I would have imagined, although it is made for the device so it will “behave” as a faster processor.

(Watch a video demo of the iPad from Apple’s website.)

According to Steve Jobs, the iPad will be available in 60 days. The iPad with 3G will be out in 90 days. Here’s a few larger photos of the device…