After years of rumors, speculation, and legend, Apple has finally lifted the veil over its slate, (or tablet in you prefer), computing device. It’s called iPad, and it’s quite impressive.
The iPad runs an expanded version of the iPhone OS, and therefore includes the VoiceOver screen reader, according to its product page. It looks similar to a large iPhone or iPod touch, but with a 9.7-inch multi-touch display.
The device offers much of the power of both an iPhone and a tradition notebook computer, using the same multi-touch technology which has made the former such a runaway hit among sighted and visually impaired consumers alike. While it can be used for web browsing, email, music, video, and all the other functionality one has come to expect from an iPhone, Apple will also be offering a multi-touch version of its iWork suite via the iTunes AppStore, as well as a new store and application called iBooks, which allows users to purchase and read electronic books from leading and independent publishers.
At this time, aside from the VoiceOver, Zoom, closed-captioning, white-on-black, and mono-audio features also found on the iPhone and Mac product lines, we are not sure about specifics in terms of accessibility. iWork for the Mac is almost entirely accessible, and Apple has made it a point to have good access to its AppStore offerings. We expect iWork for the iPad to be accessible, but this is not confirmed.
To date, electronic book stores, such as Amazon’s Kindle store, have not provided books in an accessible format, owing to DRM restrictions. We hope Apple may be able to pave the way for the visually impaired and their access to content with the iBooks application and store. If VoiceOver does indeed have access to the content in these publications, it would be a tremendous step forward for access to printed media.
The iPad comes in 16, 32, and 64 GB configurations, priced at $499 USD, $599 USD, and $699 USD, respectively.
The device includes 802.11N Wi-Fi, BlueTooth 2.1, and a 30-pin iPod dock connector. Additionally, an optional hardware keyboard and dock is available if you would prefer a hardware keyboard for extensive typing.
Optional 3G connectivity is available for an additional $130, and, in the USA at least, will be available via AT&T without a contract. Prices are $14.99 USD for 250MB of data and $29.99 for unlimited data.
The iPad will be available in late March, with 3G capable units to follow a month later.
We will be continuing to cover this latest products in the Apple lineup as information becomes available, and in an upcoming episode of the Mac-cessibility Round Table Podcast.