Apple introduces the iPad

Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off the highly anticipated “iPad” tablet and pitched it at a surprisingly low price, aiming to bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops.

Jobs, who returned to the helm last year after a much-scrutinised liver transplant, took the stage at a packed theatre on Wednesday and showed off a sleek, half-inch thick tablet computer with a 9.7-inch touchscreen.

The iPad can run movies, games and a gamut of applications. And taking on e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, Apple announced a digital bookstore called iBooks that will let users buy from publishers including Pearson Plc’s Penguin, News Corp’s HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group.

“What once occupied half your living room can now be dropped in a bag,” said NPD analyst Ned May. “It’s pulling together a variety of needs (in) a universal entertainment device.”

The iPad will sell from late March for as low as $499 for 16 gigabytes of storage. An extra $130 is needed to equip it with third-generation wireless capability.

“Pricing is very aggressive, so it’s pretty positive from a mass adoption perspective. It was about $200 lower than what I was expecting,” said Brian Marshall, an analyst with Broadpoint Amtech. Other analysts had speculated that the tablet may cost as much as $1000.

Shares of Apple rose to as high as $210.58 after the pricing news, up 5.5 per cent from their session low. The stock closed up 0.94 per cent at $207.88 on Nasdaq, within reach of its all-time high of $215.59 logged on January 5.

Apple announced a data plan with AT&T Inc, which appeared to have beaten out Verizon Wireless for the deal. Shares of AT&T, Apple’s carrier partner on the iPhone, rose 1.14 percent while Verizon Communications Inc fell about 1 percent.


The iPad is Apple’s biggest product launch since the iPhone three years ago, and arguably rivals the smartphone as the most anticipated in the company’s history. Wednesday’s event follows months of feverish speculation on the web and on Wall Street.

Apple hopes to sell consumers on the value of tablets after other technology companies, including Microsoft Corp and Toshiba Corp, have failed in recent years. As iPod sales wane, Apple is looking for another growth engine.

Jobs said there was a need for a new type of device that would sit between a smartphone and laptop computer, and that can perform tasks like browse the Web and play games.

“If there’s going to be a third category of device, it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks,” said the chief executive, dressed in his trademark black turtleneck and blue jeans.

The iPad has a near life-sized touch keyboard and supports web browsing. It comes with a built-in calendar and address book, Jobs said, calling it “awesome.”

Some analysts said the iPad, with its multimedia bells and whistles, is a tough competitor for Amazon’s Kindle. But others noted that the Kindle costs less – $259 for the cheapest version – and was more tailored for long-form reading.

“This is not an e-reader – this is a device that can be used to read books,” Cowen & Co analyst James Friedland said of the iPad. “This doesn’t change the game – at the same time, Apple is a formidable competitor and our view is that over time, Apple and Amazon will emerge as the two largest players” in e-books.

Shares of Amazon took a brief hit but recovered to end 2.7 per cent higher at $122.75 on Nasdaq.

In an online poll on before Wednesday’s media event, 37 per cent of more than 1000 respondents said they would pay $500-$699 for the tablet. Nearly 30 per cent weren’t interested, while 20 per cent said they would pay $700-$899.


Google furious at ‘sophisticated’ China cyberattacks

Google says China-based cyber spies struck the internet giant and at least 20 other firms to track activities of activists around the world.

Google says it will no longer filter internet search engine results in China and the online espionage has it reconsidering its business operations there.

“These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered, combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web, have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China,” Google chief legal officer David Drummond said in a blog post.

“We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on

“Over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese Government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.”

Mr Drummond said Google realises that defying Chinese Government demands regarding filtering internet search engine results may mean having to shut down its operations in China.

Google said it detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on its corporate infrastructure in mid-December that resulted in the theft of intellectual property.

Mr Drummond says evidence indicated the attackers were trying to get access to email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Google believes the attack was mostly blocked and that only minor information, like creation dates and subject lines, were stolen from two accounts.

Google says its investigation revealed accounts of dozens of China human rights activists that use Gmail in Europe, China, or the United States have been “routinely accessed” using malware sneaked onto their computers.

Google says at least 20 other large companies including finance, internet, media, technology, and chemical businesses were similarly attacked.

“We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant US authorities,” Mr Drummond said.

2009 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.