Apple on Wednesday finally unveiled its iPad, the company’s hottest new gadget that it describes as a cross between a laptop and a smartphone.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, clad in the jeans and turtleneck that have become his standard product-unveiling uniform, showed off the gadget that he said will be better at web browsing than a laptop.

During an invitation-only event in San Francisco, Jobs said users will be able to use the iPad’s touch screen to email, store photos, navigate maps, play video games and read electronic books.

The device is “so much more intimate than a laptop, and so much more capable than a smartphone,” Jobs said during his presentation.

CTV tech expert Kris Abel, who was at the unveiling, was very impressed with the new gadget.

“(The iPad) easily navigates through maps, PDFs in e-mail, photo albums with slick, animated slideshows (very cool),” Abel posted to his Twitter feed.

The iPad runs on a one gigahertz chip and comes with 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes of flash memory storage. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and contains an accelerometer and a proximity sensor. The device is about 1.3 centimetres thick, has a 25-centimetre screen and weighs about half a pound.

Jobs said the battery can last for about 10 hours, but the iPad can idle on standby for a month before it requires charging.

While the iPad is not as expensive as some experts had predicted, it is pricey. According to Jobs:

  • the 16 GB model that connects to the Internet through Wi-fi will sell for US$499
  • the 16 GB model that connects via a 3G mobile network will sell for US$629
  • the 32 GB Wi-Fi model will sell for US$599 and the 64 GB for US$699
  • the 64 GB, 3G model will sell for a whopping US$829

The first iPad plan will include 250 megabytes per month for US$14.99, and an unlimited plan will be US$29.99, both with AT&T, Abel said.

But Canadian gadget geeks take heart -- international deals for the iPad should be in place by June or July.

Rogers released a short statement Wednesday afternoon saying that while the company “is constantly exploring options for new products and technologies, at this time we have nothing to announce.”

Bell and Telus did not immediately offer comment.

Because the iPad will be sold unlocked, international users may be able to buy it before then and insert their own SIM card. The Wi-Fi models will begin shipping in the U.S. in two months, and the 3G models in three months.

Tech world abuzz

Speculation had been rampant about what new product the company would try to foist on an already tech-saturated market during Wednesday’s unveiling.

That was until a book publishing CEO let it slip Tuesday that his company had been working with Apple on a tablet to be based on the iPhone operating system.

The iPad has the same screen-unlocking mechanism as an iPhone and is compatible with iTunes. But the iPad is “so much more capable than the iPhone,” Jobs said.

When Apple launched its iPod in 2001, it revolutionized the way people listen to music, and its iPhone launch in 2007 similarly changed the cellphone industry.

Jobs boasted Wednesday that “Apple is the largest mobile-device company in the world now,” and announced that more than three billion applications, or “apps,” have been downloaded from its online store.

Jobs said the “apps” users already have will work on the iPad, but developers are being encouraged to redevelop them for the bigger screen.

While Apple’s tablet will further change the way people listen to music, read, browse the web and play games, it may also give’s electronic book reader, Kindle, a run for its money.

The company announced iBooks, a bookstore, which will contain offerings from five major publishers.