Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPad in San Francisco.
Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPad in San Francisco. Paul Sakuma/AP
With a buzz that rivaled that of the iPhone's launch, Apple Inc. on Wednesday unveiled a tablet computer it called the iPad.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the device was "so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone."
In essence, the iPad is a larger version of the iPhone and will retail starting at $499. It has a 9.7-inch touch screen, is a half-inch thick and weighs 1.5 pounds.
All iPads will be Wi-Fi enabled, and wireless Internet service for the 3G version of the tablet will be provided by AT&T, which will offer two plans: 250 MB of data for $14.99 and an unlimited plan for $29.99 per month.
Besides the hardware announcement, Apple also introduced a slick new market for e-books. Jobs said five of the largest publishers were onboard and that thousands of books will be available when the iPad ships in March and in April for the 3G version.
The highly anticipated gadget builds on the gestural interface the iPhone introduced. Onstage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Jobs flicked through pictures and typed on a nearly full-size, on-screen keyboard.
Jobs played the latest Star Trek film in landscape mode, searched for sushi on Google Maps and surfed the Web using the swiping motions the iPhone has made popular. Jobs also showed how the book interface worked: You turn pages using your finger.
Jennifer Brook, an information architect at The New York Times, presented an application especially built for the iPad. It looked a lot like a print edition of a newspaper with interactive slideshows embedded.
Perhaps the most impressive display, though, was when Chad Evans, of MLB.com, showed live video of a baseball game with superimposed stats.
There were a few features noticeably lacking: The iPad does not support Flash, a program that many Web sites are built on and a feature many iPhone users have clamored for. It also doesn't come with the much rumored camera. It does have a built-in microphone but, at least for now, no phone function. It also doesn't let you run more than one app at a time.
Analysts see this device in an uncomfortable space: bigger than a iPhone but smaller than a laptop. It's perhaps why tablet computers — which have been around for a decade — have had little commercial success.
Jobs acknowledged that and said Apple will have to work to convince consumers who already have smart phones and laptops that they need this gadget.
"In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks," Jobs said. "We think we've got the goods. We think we've done it."
The tablet will be priced according to its flash memory storage. The 16-gigabyte model will cost $499; the 32 gig, $599, and the 64 gig, $699.
The 3G models will cost more — $629, $729 and $829, depending on the amount of memory.
Shares of Apple rose nearly $2, or 1 percent, to $207.88 in late trading Wednesday. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company's shares have more than doubled over the past year, partly in anticipation of the tablet computer. Shares of Amazon rose $3.27 or 2.7 percent, to $122.75.
NPR's Laura Sydell contributed to this report, which also includes material from The Associated Press