AFTER all the hype, Steve Jobs, the Apple chief executive, took to a stage in San Francisco yesterday to demonstrate his latest toy.
The iPad is Apple's bid to revolutionise the way that we use the internet, play computer games and read electronic books.
The company hopes to replicate the enthusiasm created by the iPhone, in 2007, and before that the iPod, and dominate yet another market.
The price will help, with the basic model starting at $499 (€356). Mr Jobs acknowledged that the device would be bought by people only if it provided a better way of getting online.
"The bar is pretty high," he said, but there the modesty ended. "The iPad is the best browsing experience you have ever had," he said.
The Apple co-founder said that the millions who had bought the smartphone would immediately know how to use the "magical and revolutionary device".
The iPad, which will be available in about two months, is likely to be a popular e-reader as Apple also unveiled a new software application called iBooks to allow people to read digital books.
Mr Jobs also announced a new online bookstore in partnership with five leading publishers.
John Makinson, chairman and chief executive of the Penguin Group, said: "Today's announcement represents an important step in the development of a digital audience for books."
The device is 0.5in (0.01m) thick and weighs 1.5lb (0.68kg). It will run the software applications that users already have for their iPhone.
Every app works in both portrait and landscape, automatically animating between views as the user rotates the iPad in any direction. The device has a virtual keyboard and users can connect to a wireless physical keyboard for use at home or in the classroom.
In the US, AT&T will provide the service. But no operator has been announced for Ireland yet.
Tablet computers have been around for more than a decade but the form never caught on. However, more powerful processors, better battery life and touchscreen improvements, together with falling prices, mean that Apple's device could open a new market. (© The Times, London)