New tablet shares many similarities to the iPhone, many perks, and some minor disappointments

Despite Apple's best efforts at keeping its employees quiet about its latest device (hint: it's tablet shaped), the company's secrecy was ultimately been undone by its supply chain.  Apple was buying large and mid-sized LCD touch-screens in mass.  This has lead most observers to conclude that it was a virtual certainty that Apple was preparing to launch a new tablet computer.

Last month the rumor that Apple was holding the launch event for this new device in January lit up the internet and sent Apple stock soaring upwards.  A couple weeks ago Apple confirmed this event, delivering invitations to the press.  The launch event was held today January 27 in San Francisco, California, as the Apple faithful watched and waited.

Apple today announced the iPad, a promising new tablet device which the electronics manufacturer swears will revolutionize the mobile computing industry, much as its iPhone did.  The new device runs a modified version of OS X similar to the iPhone.  Unlike the iPhone there's a background wallpaper and an added bottom dock, similar to stock OS X (except with chiclet icons).

The device features a full screen touch keyboard.  It has built in email and photo browsing interfaces similar to the iPhone.  Apple says the device is perfect for web browsing and viewing online videos.  The device has a slide unlock mechanism similar to the iPhone.  States Apple CEO Steve Jobs, "It’s so much more intimate than a laptop...  [It's] a truly magical and revolutionary product."

As for the specs, its worthy of the Apple brand reputation of pushing the envelope of hardware packaging.  It features a 9.7-inch IPS display which Mr. Jobs says has a "great angle of view".  At the same time it is a mere 0.5" thin and weighs 1.5 lb., putting the most sleek netbooks to shame.

The device comes with multi-touch hardware support and is powered by an 1GHz Apple A4 chip (an ARM processor), and has 16GB to 64GB of flash storage.  The processor marks a continued assault of the ARM architecture on the x86 architecture's personal computing stronghold.  It also is packed with 802.11n wireless internet, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a 30-pin connector, a speaker, a microphone, an accelerometer and a compass. 

It gets 10 hrs. of battery life and Apple assures its environmentalist fans will be made without toxic materials like arsenic, brominated flame retardants, or PVC.

You can run any iPhone app on the device, including in a new mode dubbed "double pixel", which runs the app at the same resolution, but doubled image size vertically and horizontally -- essentially making it full screen.  Developers can also develop apps specifically for the larger screen, using an enhanced version of the SDK.

The tablet comes with some intuitive, but nice perks, such as a relatively strong (by the looks of it) painting suite named Brushes, which should handle your strongest finger painting urges.  Graphically, games on the tablet fall somewhere between a PC and a mobile device like the iPhone or PSP in quality.

The new product did have its hang ups during the demo.  Mr. Jobs made some mistakes when typing on it.  Also, some web pages had noticeably missing content in Safari (notably Flash while browsing the New York Times website), raising the question of whether Apple's lack of support for the iPhone is extending to the iPad.  And some are unhappy with the overly large bezel Apple put around the screen, limiting the screen size (this likely gave it room to pack the electronics in the thin packaging).

The iPad syncs with your Mac or PC using a 30-pin cable just like an iPhone or iPod touch. All of your apps, contacts, bookmarks, and backups are accomplished in exactly the same way.

Some iPad models will also be integrated with 3G wireless (AT&T, for better or worse). Data plans will range from $15/month for 250MB of data to $30/month for unlimited data -- no contracts are required.

The 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models cost $499, $599, and $699 respectively. Choosing an iPad with integrated 3G will cost you $629, $729, and $829 respectively. Standard models will ship within 60 days, 3G models will ship within 90 days. Accessories for the iPad will include a dock and keyboard for those that don't want to be bothered with the onscreen keyboard.

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