Introducing the Apple iPad

After months of rampant speculation, Apple Wednesday announced a touchscreen tablet computer, the “iPad” for consumers who want to take their movies, TV shows, music, games and reading with them, be it around the house or on the go. Pricing starts at $499, and it should be available in 60 to 90 days.

“We want to kick off 2010 with a truly revolutionary and magical product,” CEO Steve Jobs told a packed audience at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The wireless device can be used with Wi-Fi, as well as run on AT&T’s 3G, or third-generation, wireless network. AT&T has been the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States since its release in 2007, and some were hoping that Apple’s new tablet would also work with other carriers’ networks, including Verizon Wireless.

The iPad will cost $499 for a 16-gigabyte model, $599 for a 32 GB version and $699 for a 64-gigabyte model with Wi-Fi only, and will be available in 60 days. It will cost an additional $130 for units that also can use 3G, which should be out in 90 days, making the most expensive model $829. Jobs said AT&T will charge $29.99 a month for “unlimited use” and $14.99 a month for up to 250 megabytes. There will be no contract with AT&T required for the plans, he said.

“So far it really looks like an oversized iPod Touch,” said Avi Greengart, Current Analysis analyst, blogging from the event itself for Reuters news service.

The iPad weighs about 1.5 pounds, is 0.5 inch thin, has a 9.7-inch display and should have a battery life of 10 hours, Jobs said. It uses what he called Apple’s own 1GHz A4 chip, and flash memory, ranging from 16 to 64 gigabytes. The tablet has YouTube in high-definition built in to the iPad and Apple’s online iTunes Store, which will add an “iBooks” for purchase.

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