iPad: Wow or Why?

After more than two decades of preparation and months of rumors, Steve Jobs and Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) finally unveiled the tablet, now officially known as the iPad. America hasn’t been this captivated since the balloon boy incident.

Steve Jobs introduced the iPad at a press conference today calling it a “truly magical product.” A short procession of representatives from various industries - Electronic Arts (Stock Quote: ERTS) games and the New York Times (Stock Quote: NYT) – walked on stage and demonstrated the magical device. The iPad is essentially a pocket computer that looks like a bigger iPhone and supports more multimedia.

Perhaps the biggest surprise at the event was the price. Despite expectations that the iPad would sell at close to $1000, the starting price is actually just $499 for the 16GB model, without 3G service. If you want more space, the 32 GB model costs $599 and the 64 GB model costs $699, both without 3G. The same size models with 3G service cost $629, $729 and $829 respectively. Well played, Mr. Jobs, considering that recent polls have shown customers wouldn’t be willing to spend more than $700 on it.

The 3G models will start shipping in 90 days, and those without will ship in 60 days.

The message running through the conference was ambitious to say the least. The iPad is looking to change personal computing as we know it. According to Jobs, the purpose of the iPad is to fill in the gap between a smart phone and a laptop. But do consumers really have a need for another device, or is Jobs just trying to create this need for them?