The magazine-thin tablet, which starts at $499, is a full-color e-reader, game device and video player all in one that some analysts say could create a new and lucrative product line for a company with a track record for transforming consumer technology.
Users can navigate Web pages with their fingertips; a pinch of the multitouch screen zooms in on a satellite map, a tap on the right side turns a page. The iPad can be viewed vertically or horizontally — the content instantly reconfigures to fit the position of the tablet. Although it comes with a virtual keyboard, Apple also offers a real keyboard that includes a docking station that can charge the iPad.
"We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product," Jobs, appearing fit and energetic, said shortly before sitting down in a lounge chair to give a demo of his new tech toy at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Though far from the first to jump into the tablet market, Apple is poised to upend and dominate it, said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
"They create the hardware. They create the software. They create the user interface and (control) the content sales and distribution," he said, noting the company's online iTunes and App stores and its soon-to-open iBooks outlet that will allow people to easily buy digital books. "That is what sets them apart from everyone else. It gives them the edge."
Jobs, in his trademark jeans and black mock turtleneck, took the stage just after 10 a.m. Unveiling the iPad, which looks like a larger iPhone, he demonstrated features such writing e-mail, sorting photos, scanning Google Maps and browsing news sites with his fingers.
"The whole Web in the palm of your hands," he said.
Applications designed for the iPhone can run on the iPad. Apple is also releasing updated tools for software developers to help them build iPhone and iPad programs.
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