Apple unveils iPad tablet

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the biggest nonsecret in the tech world Wednesday — the iPad, the latest creation from the iconic Cupertino, Calif., company.

“We want to kick off 2010 by introducing a truly magical and revolutionary product,” he said shortly before sitting down in a lounge chair to give a demo of his new favorite tech toy.

The half-inch-thick tablet device, priced starting at $499, weighs in at 1.5 pounds — more slender and lighter than any netbook, Jobs said.

Apple will ship Wi-Fi models in 60 days and 3G models in 90 days, Job said. A 16-gigabyte model costs $499. The 32GB version costs $599; and a 64GB model costs $699. 3G adds $130 to the cost of each version.

The new tablet is also an electronic book reader and Apple has launched a new online store, the iBooks store. Books can be embedded with photos or video, “whatever you want,” he said, flipping a virtual page of a book.

Using his fingers, Jobs browsed through a digital version of The New York Times. “If I want to go into a story, I just touch it,” he said. “The whole Web site in the palm of your hands.”

Jobs, in his trademark jeans and black turtleneck, took the stage just after 10 a.m. at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Unveiling the iPad, which looks like a larger iPhone, Jobs demonstrated features such calendar, e-mail, photos, Google Maps and browsing news sites such as The New York Times and Time magazine.

The device comes with a 9.7-inch display, Jobs said, and 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes of flash memory storage. The device comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technology. Versions with a 3G wireless connection will offer two choices of AT&T data plans: $14.99 a month for up to 250 megabytes and $29.99 for unlimited data. The 3G iPad, though, will be unlocked, meaning it can be used with any compatible carrier.

Jobs said the battery lasts for 10 hours, and that the device can sit for a month on standby without needing a charge.

“It’s so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone,” Jobs said.

Applications designed for the iPhone can run on the iPad. Apple is also releasing updated tools for software developers to help them build iPhone and iPad programs.

“We think it’s going to be a whole ‘nother gold rush for developers as they build applications for the iPad,” said Scott Forstall, an iPhone software executive.

A new newspaper reader program from The New York Times and a game from Electronic Arts were also demonstrated during the event. The audience, which included many journalists and bloggers, clapped and gave Jobs a standing ovation.

Mercury News staff writers Troy Wolverton and Pat May contributed to this report. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.