Hello, iPad, We’ve Been Expecting You

Minutes ago, the fabled iPad was unveiled by Steve Jobs at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco. An exciting moment: I’m at my desk constantly hitting refresh on the Engadget live blog coverage to get details.

Though I’ve kept an open ear to the pre-launch frenzy, I mostly avoided covering it here because the dial was already turned up way too high for a device that no one had seen.

We heard lots of speculation. Based simply on the law of large numbers (and some leaks), a few on-target calls are likely to result from thousands of speculating analysts, bloggers and reporters.

Here’s what turned out to be on-target:

  • Name: iPad
  • Touch screen device that resembles a larger iPhone/iPod touch
  • Device built for portability of iPhone but larger screen of a MacBook
  • Apps-centric interface for home screen navigation (though customizable)
  • Accelerometer-controlled dual mode landscape and portrait
  • Full capacitive multi-touch display
  • 10 hours of battery life
  • 9.7 inch display, 0.5 inches thin, 1.5 pounds
  • Wi-Fi 802.11n & Bluetooth 2.1
  • Available in 16, 32 and 64 GB Flash storage capacity
  • Like iPhone, Syncs with PC via USB (adapter required)
  • Also like iPhone, mobile connectivity is Wi-Fi plus 3G dual mode on some models
  • Deal with AT&T for $29.99 for unlimited data ($14.99 for 250MB). Compares with average wireless broadband access for laptops (via dongle) of about $60.
  • Price: starts at $499 and goes up to $829, based on a matrix of options:

Additional specs:

  • iTunes and YouTube HD built in
  • Docking station available for keyboard & desktop setup
  • Photo viewing/sharing showcased as a central use, along with calendar, e-mail
  • Web browsing is also central component, employing what looks like a larger version of mobile Safari
  • Google Maps and Street View showcased in Jobs’ demo; so much for Bing rumors (for now)
  • Video capabilities showcased; lots of power under the hood with a 1GHz Apple A4 chip
  • Environmentally friendly (arsenic and mercury free)
  • Can run all iPhone apps (now up to 140,000)
  • Additional support for larger screen now included in iPhone SDK for developers to optimize apps for iPad (optional)
  • More robust gaming apps showcased for this additional capability: partnership with EA will yield many games
  • Brushes — capacitive touch-based sketching app will be powerful tool for graphic designers
  • As expected, device built for reading newspaper: NY Times example showcased
  • iBooks app is built in eReader with Kindle-like “e-ink” (ePub format)
  • Online bookstore looks to be an offshoot of iTunes and includes partnerships with Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Penguin and others (sounds textbook-heavy … student target market?)
  • iWorks productivity suite rebuilt for the iPad (again, likely a student play here)
  • Device will begin shipping in 60 days for non-3G models and 90 days for 3G models

Jobs ended the presentation by stressing that more than 75 million people already know how to use this product. In other words, the design is built on the interface and mobility of the iPhone and iPod Touch (also interesting that we get to hear the previously undisclosed number of iPhones and iPod touches shipped).

This is Jobs’ preemptive answer to the question of whether the company can pull off a third class of products between mobile device and laptop. My gut feeling is yes. Apple is a market maker. Period. This is yet another game changer from Cupertino.

More thoughts to come over the coming hours and years.

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