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Here's an early look at Apple's new tablet computer, called the iPad. Apple approached the device with the intention of taking e-readers to the next level, adding a new category to laptops and smartphones. Existing e-readers "don't do anything better," the company said. So the iPad is designed to marry music, video, mapping, e-readers and e-commerce. I'll keep updating as we get new info from the company's news conference:

-- prices start at $499, and go higher for more capability; that's much lower than anyone predicted. Two data plans available through AT&T, one as low as $30 per month

-- first models will be shipped in 60 days

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-- bookstore called iBooks includes offerings from publishers including Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette. Sample book was priced at $15, signaling the pricing revolution noted earlier on Read Street.

-- book reading experience looks very simple and clean -- I love the faux shelf; here's a video from Gizmodo. (ditto for newspapers and magazines)

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-- slick design mimics the minimalist Apple design of the iPhone and iPod Touch.

-- can bring an "almost life-size" keyboard onto the screeen

-- can watch TV shows and movies

-- access to email, music, photos and mapping

-- works in portrait and landscape modes

-- 1.5 pounds in weight, half-inch thin

-- 9.7 inch display -- will run almost every iPhone app

-- wi-fi on all models, 3G for an extra charge

An Apple moment: showing off the iPad's mapping feature by locating sushi restaurants near the San Francisco arts center where the news conference was taking place. "Looks like a giant iPhone," one commenter said.

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