‘Magical’ iPad arrives April 3

Apple’s crack at the e-reader market, the iPad, will become available in the US on April 3 as a wifi only version, and then in late April for the wifi and 3G model.

The device will hit European shores (Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK) as well as Australia, Canada and Japan late in the same month.

The iPad, dubbed as a ‘magical’ device by chief exec Steve Jobs, will sell for $499 for the 16GB, $599 for the 32GB, and $699 for the 64GB versions. The 3G-capable models will be available at $629 for 16GB, $729 for 32GB and $829 for 64GB. International pricing will be announced around launch time in late April.

Apple will open up a new section in the App Store to cater to the iPad, although the device is also able to use 140,000 existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications. However, some have noted that once some of these apps scale up to the available resolution of the iPad (1024 by 768 pixels at 132 pixels per inch) they look a bit like the blocky graphics of the Commodore 64.

Taking the e-reader market head on, the iPad will feature an iBooks app that allows users to browse, purchase and download e-books to read on the device. The screen isn’t up to the same standards as electronic ink, but that’s because it’s being pitched as a jack of all trades when teamed with the iWork suite of office tools, Safari browser (with the same lack of support for Flash and Java that the iPhone suffers from), email client, and photo, video and music player apps.

The iBookstore will be available as a free download and will feature books from the New York Times Best Seller list from both major and independent publishers, including Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster.

In related news, an Android-based, dual screen e-reader made by US-based Spring Design seems to be having some launch delays. The Alex, which features a 3.5″ colour LCD screen with virtual keyboard as well as a paper-like 6″ EPD screen, and connectivity provided via wifi, GSM and EVDO/CDMA, was due to go on sale at the end of February for $399.00. However, the online store has still not launched, but a company spokesman told that the units are ready to go, the firm is just waiting for the website to be completed and some issues with the back-end e-commerce.

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