Apple Unveils the iPad

Steve Jobs introduced a 'third category' of devices. The iPad rings in the Tablet era for Apple.
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CUPERTINO, Calif. (

TheStreet

) --

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the hotly anticipated Tablet device -- the iPad -- which will be available at the end of March at a range of prices, from $500 to $830.

At a press conference in San Francisco Wednesday, Jobs called Apple the world's No.1 mobile device maker, bigger in revenue than

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

. And in a surprise move, he named

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

-- and apparently not

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

-- as the iPad's 3G telco partner.

The stripped-down version of the iPad will cost $500 and comes enabled with WiFi connections only. The 3G verisons start at $630 and go up to $830. The 3G prices do not include a data service plan from AT&T, which go for $15 a month or $30 a month (for unlimited use).

AT&T shares jumped 3% to $26.01 and Apple's stock rose 2% to $209.75 immediately after the pricing was announced Wednesday.

Jobs called the iPad a new category of devices that can outperform laptops and smartphones by delivering Web browsing, pictures, videos, music, games and e-books.

Steve Jobs unveils the new Apple iPad

As for battery life, Apple claims it will last ten hours between chargings.

The iPad is a half-inch thick and as presented, lands somewhere between a smartphone and a notebook. To keep the power consumption within manageable limits, Apple had to compromise the computing power of the device, says Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar.

But Jobs demonstrated some of the high-definition video capabilities of the iPad, which help elevate the device above ereaders like

Amazon's

(AMZN) - Get Report

Kindle.

The glorified e-reader, however, opens a new chapter in Apple's grand plan to be a modern media hub.

For investors, it further reveals Apple's ambition to supplant

Comcast

(CMCSA) - Get Report

,

Time Warner Cable

(TWC)

,

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

and

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

as a media distributor.

This is obviously a bold move, but

network services are within Apple's reach

.

The key development here is the content deals Apple has made with book and magazine publishers, and reportedly TV programmers. Like iTunes to music, Apple's text and video distribution deals will give the company superior footing against the e-book giant -- Amazon's Kindle.

For Apple, the push further into services represents a big gamble on the next stage of growth at a time when the company may now be

reaching its peak

in hardware sales.

If analysts are correct, Apple's expansion of its media store model is another link in what could be an all-Apple network. Given its vast media library and its host of devices, Apple is on the verge of morphing beyond online media retail to a new role as a network operator.

-- Reported by Scott Moritz in New York

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