Apple Unveils iPad Tablet, Laptop-like Touchscreen to Sell for $499

Apple’s new tablet computer has finally been unveiled, after years of speculation. The iPad will function as a genuine cross-over between the realm of the iPhone and the laptop computer, in a format smaller than a laptop screen, similar to a netbook, and designed to optimize the experience of reading online or working with files and e-publications. It will be able to run over 140,000 of the apps already made for iPhone and iPod Touch, with a whole new class of iPad-optimized apps to come. Perhaps most important of all, it will retail for a starting price of only $499.

Many had expected it would retail for as much as or even more than $1,000, and be designed to compete as a top-flight laptop computer product. But Apple appears to have taken the view that it is really more appropriate as a competitor to less advanced Netbook computers and single-purpose e-reading devices, like Amazon’s Kindle products. At $499, the iPad will use a brand new A4 Apple-made internal processor, designed to streamline processing and prolong battery life, and use the most advanced multitouch screen on the consumer market.

The keyboard is entirely virtual, sliding into position at the base of the screen when needed, in vertical or horizontal mode. In horizontal mode, the keyboard is reported to be nearly as wide as a full laptop keyboard, making the touchscreen work environment far more user-friendly. It will also have an innovative mail client, which will list mails to the left of a viewing window when in horizontal mode and allow for single mail viewing when vertical, again to optimize the ease of use.

The iBooks app will allow for a graphically rich e-reading experience and easy organization of electronic books. There is some hope the device may include an app that will allow e-reading users to organize all of their e-books from different services in one central library, but coordinating this with direct competitors such as Amazon may be asking too much. A multi-touch picture-browing feature allows users to sort through stacks of photos without opening whole albums, achieving something closer to that 3-dimensional content interface that will someday revolutionize ultra-thin touch computing platforms.