Apple has put an end to six months of intense speculation in confirming today its newest device, the iPad.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the new device at a special one-off event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, California.
As expected, the device is a keyboardless tablet computer with multitouch interface.
Crucially, Jobs confirmed the device will play games, with the likes of EA demoing its titles on the tablet.
iPad launches in late March in the US, available in a mix of WiFi and 3G variants. WiFi only models, which ship first, cost $499 for 16GB storage, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. Versions with 3G included cost $629, $729, and $829 respectively.
Apple has yet to confirm international launch dates and prices for the device.
At the press event today, Apple began boasting the iPad’s gameplay properties by showing a tabletised version of the Halo-like iPhone FPS shooter N.O.V.A.
With the iPad edition, players can move the virtual on-screen controls around the screen for best fit.
Travis Boatman, vice president of worldwide studios at EA Mobile, then took stage to show a tablet version of its flagship racer Need For Speed Shift.
"When Apple invited us to come on site, we couldn’t have been more excited. But we wanted to check out this device’s performance as gamers,” he said.
“Building for the iPad is a little different it’s kind of like holding an HD display up to your face. It’s really cool.”
Jobs confirmed the iPad will run all iPhone apps, without the need for modification. Apple is ‘pixel doubling’ to run apps full-screen, although they can also be run as small windows in the middle of the screen at their original resolution.
People buying the iPad will be able to sync their existing app library onto it, though developers can “spend some time modifying their app” to get the most out of the iPad and its display.
A new version of the iPhone SDK is being released today with the necessary tools.
However, when demoing the device’s web-browsing capabilities, a broken Flash link appeared to show that the iPad will not support Flash, suggesting games based on the platform will not be playable.
The device is 0.5 inches thin, weighs 1.5 pounds, has a 9.7-inch display, full capacitive multi-touch, and it runs Apple’s own 1GHz A4 chip.
As mentioned it supports Wi-Fi (802.11n), 3G and Bluetooth, and has an accelerometer and compass inside, while Jobs promises 10 hours of battery life – "I can take a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo and watch video the whole time" – and more than a month of standby time.
In announcing the tablet device, Jobs revealed that the company had in the past pondered the existence of a tablet device for some time.
But for it to exist, said Jobs, it needs to be better than both the iPhone and iMac at a number of tasks:
"What kind of tasks? Browsing the web. Doing email. Enjoying and sharing pics. Watching videos. Enjoying music,” he said. “And playing games.”