Apple has announced the 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display, a docking station and display compatible with the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops and the Mac Mini desktop.

The Thunderbolt Display has a 16:9 aspect ratio, an edge-to-edge glass design and an IPS panel with 178 degree viewing angle, Apple said.

It has a FaceTime camera, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, USB 2.0 and Thunderbolt ports, as well as a MagSafe connector to charge your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. It will be available some time in the next 60 days and will cost £749 plus VAT.

Though many had predicted that Apple would choose today to announce the official release of Mac OS X Lion and update the MacBook Air range, few had anticipated the announcement of the Thunderbolt Display.

“The Apple Thunderbolt Display is the ultimate docking station for your Mac notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.

“With just one cable, users can dock with their new display and connect to high performance peripherals, network connections and audio devices.”

Apple says that the Thunderbolt Display is the world’s first display to include Thunderbolt I/O technology. Featuring two bi-directional channels with transfer speeds up to 10Gbps each, each Thunderbolt port delivers PCI Express directly to external peripherals such as high performance storage and RAID arrays, supports DisplayPort for high resolution displays and works with existing adapters for HDMI, DVI and VGA displays. Thunderbolt-based Macs with discrete graphics can drive two external displays giving professional users over 7 million additional pixels of display real estate and the ability to daisy chain additional Thunderbolt devices, as well as video and audio capture devices.

The Thunderbolt Display includes an ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the display brightness based on external lighting conditions.