Apple Unveils Much-Heralded iPad

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Wednesday the iPad, a much-anticipated tablet-style computer that looks like a larger version of a iPhone. The device allows users to surf the Web, watch videos and read e-books.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Apple calls it magical. The companys new iPad unveiled today by Steve Jobs.

Mr. STEVE JOBS (CEO, Apple): Now, the reason that Apple is able to create products like the iPad is because weve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.

BRAND: Steve Jobs put to rest weeks of rumors and speculation with his presentation today in San Francisco.

NPRs Laura Sydell was there. And Laura, you actually got to use one of these iPads. How magical is it?

LAURA SYDELL: It got up and flew away after I was done.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SYDELL: No, Im just kidding. Its nice. I didnt - I have to say, it didnt quite live up to the hype for me. But then again, how could anything? And, also, the name iPad, I doubt there were any women in the room when they came up with that one, you know.

SYDELL: Yeah, theres a lot of talk about that on the blogosphere.

BRAND: And also the way it looks because it looks like just a big giant iPhone.

SYDELL: And, you know, it is in many ways like a big giant iPhone. The touch screen is a little nicer. You can do this it's got this great kind of pinching action that brings you in and out of, say, photos and books. And its about a half-inch think and its about 9.7 inch multi-touch screen. And I would say that it has an operating system, well, actually, they told me - the operating system is pretty much the same one as the iPhone and its got the same 140,000 applications that you can get for the iPhone. Now people are going to make apps that are special for it. But in many ways, yeah, it is. It has a virtual keypad, but much larger, like the iPhone, although you can get an attachable keyboard for this.

BRAND: And you can't make phone calls with it.

SYDELL: No. It is not a phone and it does not have a camera. So that actually gives less functionality than the iPhone.

BRAND: Well, what else can you do with it?

SYDELL: Its a great gaming device. They did show how - there were specific things you could do because of the size of the screen, right. Say, if youre doing a racing game, you know, you could shift gears with the touch of your finger. And like the much smaller iPhone, you know, you can tilt it, move it and so you can sort of steer and do things like that. You can watch video on it. Here's the big new thing, which is that you can read books on it. And it actually is a very nice eReader. It has an OLED backlit screen, so it looks really nice, you can change pages with your finger, put it in landscape mode, so like it is - like a book. You can see two pages at once.

So, that was nice. They did not talk about pricing for books. As of right now, it seems like they had deals with most of the major publishing houses. But Random House hasnt signed on. What weve heard is that pricing will be established by the publishers themselves, which is different from the Kindle. So, that does make it different from an iPhone, is just how it works as a reader.

BRAND: And there has always been, as you say, a lot of hype, a lot of anticipation leading up to an Apple product launch. But it just seemed like weve been hearing about this tablet rumor forever.

SYDELL: Years?

BRAND: Years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Yeah, I know.

SYDELL: Years, Madeleine. I know, I think, you know, it really reached a level of frenzy and in part I think its because the iPod and the iPhone were so incredibly successful that they really changed the categories. And people are wondering if, okay, is this going to be a device, once again, that takes existing technologies, you know, there were mp3 players before the iPod. There were smartphones before the iPhone. It is going to change a whole category, in this case, the tablet computer eReaders.

And so I think that had something to do with the hype around this - was just that sense. Also, there's a hope maybe it will save newspapers. The New York Times was there, they have an app, you know. The New York Times is probably going to start to charge. So there's a question as to whether or not this might be able to really help magazines and periodicals as we move into the digital age. A lot of people are looking in those industries, are hoping it will do what iTunes did for the music industry.

BRAND: And people want to know, how much is it going to cost?

SYDELL: Oh, yes. The big question, not bad, $499 for the cheapest one, but you got to have a WiFi plan if you want to use it everywhere, but - and up to $829 for the most expensive, which has 3G.

BRAND: All right, thanks very much. Thats NPRs Laura Sydell in San Francisco talking about the new Apple iPad.

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Rumor No More: Apple Unveils iPad Tablet

Apple introduced the iPad, a mobile tablet browsing device i i

hide captionApple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs holds up the new iPad in San Francisco.

Paul Sakuma/AP
Apple introduced the iPad, a mobile tablet browsing device

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

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