Breaking years of speculation, Apple unveiled a tablet computer in San Francisco Wednesday, arguably the company's most anticipated product ever.

Speaking at a media-event in San Francisco, Apple's Chief Executive Steve Jobs released what it calls the 'iPad', a tablet device that Apple hopes will revolutionize the way media is delivered to consumers.

Books and newspapers can be read on the device -- like an e-book -- but it will also play rich digital content, and offer Web capabilities.

[It's] Way better than a laptop, way better than a phone. You can turn it any way you want. To see the whole page is phenomenal, said Jobs.

It's very thin -- you can change the homescreen to whatever you want. What this device does is extraordinary. You can browse the web with it. It's the best web experience you've ever had.

The new device will start at $499.

The Apple chief said that the device will feature up to 10hours of battery life and is highly recyclable. It has a 9.7 display and weighs 1.5 pounds.

Internet connectivity will be available through the 802.11n wireless standard, common in offices and homes. Certain devices will feature 3G access built in, with service from AT&T.

So $499 for 16GB of iPad, Jobs explained. That's our base model. 32GB is $599, 64GB is $799. 3G models cost an extra $130. $629, 729, and 829 with 3G.

Shares generally rose in anticipation of the event, but Apple dropped 1.68 percent, or 3.46 dollars as Jobs took the stage .

Many industry observers predicted the device would provide a new platform for media companies to make money in the digital world.

Magazine, book and newspaper publishers are talking with Apple about providing material as well. The device could be a boon for traditional media, which has seen revenues drop in recent years.

We think we've captured the essence of reading the newspaper. A superior experience in a native application, explained Martin Nisenholtz, VP of digital operations at The New York Times.

The layout is just like a standard paper, and again we've got those dropdown context menus. You can resize text with a pinch.

Apple rolled out a new application to serve books to the new device. Dubbed iBooks, the application will be similar to iTunes, but will be special tailored for book browsing and purchasing.

So iBooks, a great reader, a great online bookstore. All in one really great app. We're very excited about this, Jobs said.

The Cupertino Calif.-based company was already working with Penguin, Macmillion, Simon & Shuster to receive content. Harold McGraw III, chief executive of textbook publisher McGraw-Hill Cos., also said on Tuesday that his company will distribute text-books on the device.

A slew of games that were also shown off, showing off the hardware and touch capabilities of the new iPad.

Content and applications for the device will come via a modified version of the software that powered the iPhone.

We think it's going to be another gold rush for devs, Scott Forstall, vice president of the iPhone division Forstall said. And of course every iPad comes with the app store on it,

Electronic Arts' Travis Boatman express his excitement for the device, while also showing off games.

Apple's iPad will be available worldwide within 60 days, Jobs said, while 3G models will arrive in 90 days.

Analysts' sales predictions for the tablet vary widely, with many believing Apple can sell 2 million to 5 million units in the first year.