iPad Finally Appears at $499

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Apple finally introduced its iPad—looking like a larger, more user friendly and robust iPhone (without the phone part)– that now offers e-reading and starts at $499.

Although Steve Jobs introduced the iPad as “magical and revolutionary,” the device lacked any one killer app.  But its inclusion of an e-book reader and a robust iWorks productivity software app suite, plus gorgeous video,  makes the 9.7-inch iPad a very cool interim product between a laptop and smartphone at a very reasonable price of $499.

The iPad has an LED backlit screen and lets users download e-books from a new iBookstore supported by five publishers initially.  Its e-reader allows color charts and video so its suited to textbook use.

The iPad permits fast gaming, and lets you watch YouTube, all your video and TV in HD.  You can import photos and play music; it syncs with iTunes and almost all of iTunes 140,000 apps can run on the iPad.  Plus there are 12 new apps especially designed for it.

The Wi-Fi only models come in 16, 32 and 64 Mb at $499, $599 and $699 with worldwide shipping in March.  The Wi-Fi + 3G models are available in April in the U.S. at $629, $729 and $829.

Apple said it struck a deal with AT&T to offer data plans less than half the typical price of $60/month.  A basic plan offers 250 Mb of data at $14.99/month and an unlimited data plan is $29.99/month. Also, the iPad ships unlocked so you can use it with certain other carriers.

Jobs who is still very thin, and who sat for part of the presentation, claimed Apple is now the largest mobile device company, bigger than Samsung, Sony or Nokia.

Apple’s new  iBookstore will include ebooks from Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon Shuster, Macmillan and Hachette initially. And books will use the standard ePub format rather than a proprietary standard as used in Amazon’s Kindle.

Just like the iPhone, the iPad has only a single button on the bottom.  It runs on an Apple 1GHz A4 chip and promises 10 hours of battery life.  The screen is also Multi-touch and capacitive.

Other notable features are its optional  accessories.   A small dock will let the iPad double as a digital photo frame and with a keyboard +dock, you’ve got a mini desktop system.

Sources included WSJ and Engadget live blogs.

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