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Apple iPad: Web browser, e-reader, games console…

Tonight Apple unveiled the iPad, a device that looks like the MacBook Air’s screen and offers sofa-surfers the perfect browsing solution. A new interface has been created so that users can get the most out of the large screen. The iPad’s 1024 x 768 pixel resolution means that websites look great on it and Apple has introduced an iBooks app and store so that the iPad can be used as an e-reader. As many people predicted Apple is working with publishers to offer a new publishing format that crosses the print/digital divide by offering interactive newspapers and magazines.

In addition to browsing and reading, you can watch YouTube videos in all their glory and Apple has opened up the iPhone app store to work on the larger-screened iPad. All iPhone apps and games will work on the iPad but they’ll be scaled up so that they fill the screen. If developers want their apps to take full advantage of the large screen then they can use the newly created iPad SDK to build apps specifically for the iPad. Apple has rewritten iWork, for example, so that it works perfectly on the iPad’s screen. We saw pictures of iWork tonight and it looks superb. Combined with the large on-screen keypad we could see ourselves happily editing stories using iWork for the iPad.

The iPad’s 9.7-inch touchscreen supports multi-touch, so you can zoom in on pictures by pinching out your fingers. You can also rearrange photos by holding down on them and dragging them around. Similar to the iPhone, the iPad comes with Google Maps but the map is a lot easier to see on the iPad’s large screen – Street View looks particularly good. There are two versions of the iPad, one with Wi-Fi and one with Wi-Fi and 3G. The 3G version also packs GPS which means you will be able to use the iPad and Google Maps to navigate around town properly.

By adding a 3G-enabled model Apple has unleashed the iPad’s potential but it’s the iPad’s size and battery life that makes it such an interesting mobile device. You would think that a device with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal memory and all of the above features would be rather large but the iPad is only 13mm thin. Impressively the battery lasts for up to ten hours and it can stay in standby mode for up to a month. It all runs on a 1GHz Apple A4 custom-designed, low-power processor so Apple has been able to maximise the iPad’s performance. From what we saw everything ran really smoothly.

According to Apple this touchscreen beauty will be available in the UK in March and pricing will depend on what model you choose. In the US the cheapest iPad (16GB) model costs $499, the 32GB model costs $599 and the 64GB one costs $699. If you want 3G though you have to pay $130 extra. As for data costs, we don’t know yet who will be offering a data package in the UK but Apple said it would offer unlimited data in the US for $29.99 per month. The SIM-card slot is unlocked so you won’t have to sign up to another contract from the sounds of it and you’ll be able to stick in any SIM, including the one in your iPhone.