Apple is shaking up the gadget world with an iPad that redefines the tablet computer and threatens with obsolescence electronic readers, digital photo frames and other mono-purpose gizmos.
"Apple's new iPad signifies another step toward the convergence between smartphones and mobile computers," said Frost & Sullivan analyst Todd Day.
"It's more than a smartphone, less than a notebook, but just the right personal device for everyday users. The iPad will likely be the best selling electronics device of 2010."
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs on Wednesday revealed the iPod, iPhone, and Macintosh computer maker's latest must-have device, a touchscreen tablet computer crowned "iPad."
The gadget has a 9.7-inch (24.6-centimeter) color screen and resembles an oversized iPhone. It is 0.5 inches (1.3 cms) thick, weighs 1.5 pounds (0.7 kgs) and comes with 16, 32, or 64 gigabytes of flash memory.
The cheapest iPad model, with Wi-Fi connectivity and 16GB of memory, is 499 dollars while the most expensive -- which includes 3G connectivity and 64GB of memory -- costs 829 dollars.
The iPad offers full color, Web and multimedia capabilities for just 10 dollars more than Amazon.com's top-of-the-line Kindle DX that presents digital reading material in black-and-white.
"Right now, if you are thinking about buying a Kindle you are probably reconsidering that decision," Interpret analyst Michael Gartenberg said.
Some book lovers overwhelmed by or uninterested in video, location-sensing maps, music and more might still cling to e-readers that only present on-screen versions of ink and paper.
"I have a hard time believing that after seeing this folks are going to want an e-reader that just does plain text," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group.
"This is going to do some significant damage to existing e-readers on the market, even the formatted ones like the Plastic Logic Que."
The iPad has a picture frame mode for presenting slide shows of stored photos and an optional charging stand to sit upright on a desktop.
It has Google Maps coupled with geo-location software to pinpoint where users are and direct them where they want to go.
Screen images flip between portrait and landscape modes depending on how an iPad is held.
Mobile game applications for iPhone also work on the iPad, and developers are adapting software to take advantage of the extra screen "real estate."
"We think there will be a whole other Gold Rush for developers as they go to develop apps for the iPad," Jobs said.
Meanwhile, all of the iPhone or iPod Touch applications "you know and love" will run on iPads, which are being shipping worldwide in 60 days, according to Apple's chief executive.
"The iPad becomes a viable alternative to a netbook," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. "And I get the 140,000 applications in the App Store. It is a pretty compelling value proposition compared to a Kindle."
Jobs laid claim to a new category of device that falls between a smartphone and a laptop.
Any device competing in this third category "has to be better" at tasks such as email, enjoying pictures, watching video, listening to music, playing games and reading digital books, according to Jobs.
"Otherwise, it has no reason for being," Jobs said.
Mobile game titans Electronic Arts and Gameloft jumped on the iPad wagon, joining Jobs to show off titles adapted for the devices.
Enderle sees the iPad as "disruptive for a lot of markets" including hand-held videogame devices, and eventually in-home consoles.
"There were a lot of shots fired today," said Interpret analyst Michael Gartenberg.
"It is enough to make people want a third device, because they have demonstrated a reason for it. I think iPad is going to do well for Apple."