Apple CEO Steve Jobs today announced the Apple iPad and the Apple iBookstore at an invitation-only event in San Francisco, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts in San Francisco.
The product's launch comes after a few years of rumours and speculation surrounding Apple's development of a tablet-like device. Media outlets and enthusiast sites reported the device would fill a product gap for Apple between its iPhone smartphone and MacBook device. The Financial Times reported in December that Apple would host an event to launch the tablet-like device in January.
But Apple isn't the first company to launch a tablet. Some of the top PC makers including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Asus showed off multimedia tablet prototypes with different screen sizes at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. Many of those handheld devices were based on Google's Android Linux OS and provided the ability to surf the Internet, view multimedia and read e-books.
An HP Slate running Windows 7 was shown by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during a keynote address at CES. The Slate will ship this year. Dell also reminded everyone that it is developing a similar device, showing a tablet with a 5-inch screen.
Executives from PC companies have said the rapid growth of mobile Internet and touchscreens created a new class of tablet computing devices. But Apple has an edge over the PC makers as it has a history of introducing products like the iPhone and iPod that have changed the way devices are designed.
The rumors helped Apple define the tablet market even though it hasn't shipped a device, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates in a research note sent in early January. Tablet launches by other PC makers were perhaps triggered by Apple's threat to enter the market.
"One has to wonder, if Apple were not aiming at this market with its trademark accuracy, whether the rest of the industry would
care so much," Kay wrote.
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Agam Shah contributed to this story