Apple's CEO Steve Jobs has finally put an end to months of speculation and announced the Apple iPad, the company's move to bridge the gap between the mobile phone and laptop at its media event in San Fransisco.

The new tablet device, which looks to sport a modified version of the iPhone OS, will come with an aluminium back and a large touchscreen allowing you to see web pages as you would on a regular laptop.

Jobs, although confidently stating that "Apple is the number one mobile devices company in the world" and that "by revenue, we're bigger than Nokia", launched the iPad as a question, asking if "there's room for something in the middle?".

The iPad, which will come with an almost full-size touchscreen keyboard, will also be geared to enjoy all types of digital media and judging by the way Steve Jobs demoed the unit at the press launch, is expected to be used by holding it with one hand and controlling it with another. 

With auto-rotate functionality, Jobs says the iPad is "way better than a laptop" and "a dream to type on".

In a fairly lengthy demo, the iPad was shown to be viewing images, video - including high def YouTube clips - web browsing, flipping through a calendar, suggesting that like the iPhone it will be very app focused. However it's also clear from the demos that the iPad isn't supporting Adobe Flash playback within the browser.

The iPad will sport a 9.7-inch display (the same as the Amazon Kindle DX), will be half an inch thick and weighs in at 1.5lbs. It will offer a custom 1GHz "Apple A4" processor and come in 16, 32, or 64GB storage sizes. Wireless 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, speaker, mic, dock connector, accelerometer and compass are also included. It will launch with the claim of 10 hours of active battery life and a month of standby.

Apple is aiming the device firmly at the consumer market with pricing for the 16GB version lower than expected at $499, while the 32GB version will be $599 and the 64GB $799. 3G models cost an extra $130 so $629, $729, and $829. Non-3G models are due in 60 days - 3G versions in 90.

Apple has confirmed to Pocket-lint that it has yet to set international pricing.

With the App Store built in, Apple say there will be a button that will allow current apps to be "doubled up" allowing you to maximise the new bigger screen although developers can also chose to resize their offerings to suit.

Apple has confirmed that it will be releasing an SDK on Wednesday for developers to update their current iPhone apps for the new device.

As well as the existing iTunes and App Store content, Apple has announced it is to rival Amazon's Kindle platform by launching the new "iBooks" store that will offer ebook downloads from major publishers.

To try and make the iPad appeal to those who value productivity, as well as entertainment, Apple has announced a version of iWork that's been specially adapted for the touchscreen device that will be offered at $9.99 for each element.

In the States, AT&T will offer iPad 3G connectivity with two contract-free options announced - 250MB of data for $14.99 per month and an "unlimited" plan for £29.99 a month.

International deals are due to be in place by June or July, but Apple has revealed it will be offering the iPad unlocked, so if consumers opt for the 3G model option, they will have choice of mobile broadband providers and contracts.

In what will surely sway even those that don't like the idea of the touchscreen device, the iPad will come with a keyboard docking station allowing you to quickly put text into the device. Other accessories from Apple will include a standard docking station so you can make it a "great photo frame" and a more protective case to protect it when you are out and about.

Here are all the official Apple iPad pictures, our hands on with the iPad, while we've also now got the oficial Apple iPad video.