Q+A: Apple unveils iPad tablet PC

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (BestGrowthStock) – Apple Inc (Read more about Apple stock future.) unveiled its long-awaited iPad to much fanfare in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Here are some questions and answers about the Mac-maker’s newest device:

WHAT IS THE IPAD AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THAN A LAPTOP PC OR A SMARTPHONE?

The iPad is a so-called tablet computer: a flat, magazine-sized device with a color touchscreen that allows users to surf the Web, watch movies, send email and read electronic books, among other things.

It has an on-screen keyboard — Apple is selling an optional physical keyboard that connects to the iPad — as well as special software for spreadsheets and word processing. But analysts say the iPad’s main draw is for consuming media — from reading digital newspapers to watching video — rather than for PC-like work.

The iPad looks like a large version of Apple’s iPhone, but it does not have built-in phone capabilities or a camera.

WHAT CHALLENGES WILL THE IPAD FACE?

Many companies have tried to sell tablet PCs to consumers in the past with lackluster results. It remains to be seen whether consumers really want another type of Internet device, particularly now that the much-more portable smartphones have become the standard computing device for people on the go.

Still, analysts say the iPad’s relatively low price, ease-of-use and links to Apple’s online music, book and applications stores will make it an entertainment gadget that appeals to a broader group of people than previous attempts to market tablet computers.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The most basic iPad, with 16GB of flash memory, will be priced at $499. A 32GB version will cost $599 and a 64GB version will cost $699.

All iPads can access the Internet using WiFi, but Apple will also sell versions of the iPad that connect to high-speed 3G wireless networks from carriers like AT&T. Those devices will cost an additional $130, meaning that the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models will cost $629, $729 and $829, respectively.

The 3G version also requires a data plan, which AT&T will offer to U.S. customers for $14.99/month for up to 250 MB of data usage, or $29.99/month for unlimited data usage.

WHEN WILL IT BE AVAILABLE?

The WiFi-only versions of the iPad will be available in the United States in March at Apple retail stores, the Apple web site and selected dealers. The 3G version will be available in the United States and selected countries in April. Apple said that international pricing and worldwide availability for iPads will be announced at a later date.

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(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; editing by Carol Bishopric)

Q+A: Apple unveils iPad tablet PC