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Apple Unveils the Sadly Underwhelming iPad

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In many ways, it's everything we expected. And less.

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It's difficult to recall the last time a device, shrouded in secrecy, earned so much speculation and expectation. There was little doubt that Apple (AAPL) would be unveiling a tablet computer -- that cat leapt out of the bag long ago -- but exactly which features would be implemented had bloggers and tech gurus wagering guesses that ranged from a front-facing camera to an actual kickstand. In fact, rumors and predictions ran all the way up to the official presentation, attempting to build anticipation that would be effectively doused in mere minutes.

San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center was packed for the occasion. On stage, before things were underway, a bare side table sat next to a leather armchair -- perhaps hinting at a unique way to interact with a computer that's somewhat different from a laptop.

Steve Jobs, The Man Himself, took the stage and hyped "a magical and revolutionary product" after a few sales updates -- 250 million iPods sold since 2001, 284 Apple stores now open, total apps numbering 140,000. All mere appetizers before the main course.

An image of Moses brandishing tablets erased any remaining guesswork. The iPad is born.

Reflecting earlier claims that the tablet device would look like an iPhone that met a rolling pin, the iPad has the length and height of a hardcover book -- look out Kindle (AMZN) -- but the width of a college-ruled notepad. Like Apple's previous multi-touch devices, the interface is very intuitive -- gestures are your standard taps, flicks, and slides -- the App Store is integrated, and it has an accelerometer to adjust profile to landscape settings, perfect for reading a website or PDF file. Even the same 30-pin cable included with the iPhone and iPod lines is used.

Although it's a brand new OS, it's not all that different from an iPhone or iPod Touch.

In typical fashion, Jobs mentioned how "awesome" the device is to watch movies and TV shows while sitting in the aforementioned leather chair. However, the aspect ratio of the screen is different than that of letterbox -- somewhere between 4:3 and 16:9. How this plays out with cinephiles remains to be seen.

But while Jobs chatted up the crowd and browsed through the Web, a few little hitches with the dream device became clear.

A missing plugin error appeared on screen while on a website, hinting at the lack of Adobe Flash (ADBE). Also, the onscreen keyboard will take some getting used to even in a sitting position -- Jobs made a couple typos in the process. (The keyboard dock will alleviate those problems). The Facebook app, acceptable on the iPhone, looked a little clunky on such a large screen. And 3G access with AT&T (T) will be included... at $29.99 per month for unlimited data. Rumors of Verizon (VZ) 3G access were just that. Phone calls? Nope.

And then there was that suspicious lack of multitasking. Yes, a tablet computer wasn't shown running more than one app at a time. An oversight that couldn't possibly be considered "slight."
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