Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance tonight for the launch of the second-generation of the popular iPad, which will go on sale March 11 in the U.S.
Despite having taken a leave of absence due to ill health, Mr. Jobs presented the new device to a packed conference centre, saying, “We’ve been working on this product for a while now and I just didn’t want to miss today.”
The company’s inspirational chief executive, who has been gravely ill in recent months was plainly very thin as he took to the stage in San Francisco.
However, he launched into a vigorous presentation, mocking Apple’s rivals and the critics who had doubted the wisdom of launching the original iPad a year ago.
Since then the company has sold more than 15 million of the tablet computers, despite a high price ranging from $499 to $829, while rivals have been racing to catch up. “Today we’re here to talk about Apple’s third post-PC blockbuster product.” said Mr Jobs.
“That’s how we think about these things. We started with the iPod, then we added the iPhone, and then the iPad. Every one has been a blockbuster,” he added.
He continued: “When we said the iPad was magical, people laughed at us. But it’s turned out to be magical. And people questioned whether it was an “unbelievable” price – well ask our competitors.”
He said many now consider the iPad the most successful consumer product ever launched with a market share of more than 90 per cent and a device that had left rivals ‘just flummoxed’.
So, what does the iPad 2 have that the original iPad did not? Well, for one, it’s smaller: 33 percent thinner than its predecessor and just a smidge lighter (the iPad 2 weighs 1.3 pounds while the first iPad weighed a-not-exactly-chunky 1.5 pounds.)
Meanwhile, the iPad 2 gets a pair of cameras – one rear-facing and one front-facing for FaceTime chat – and a gyroscope, just like the iPhone 4, which should improve gaming capability.
Mr. Jobs said the iPad 2 represents a major step forward with a ‘completely new design’. He said: “What is iPad 2. What have we learned? It is an all new design. It’s a completely new design. And it’s dramatically faster.”
The improvements are built around a completely new computer chip it calls the A5 and a dual core processor, which is the sort of technology found in high performing laptops. The graphics are said to be up to 9 times faster than in the original iPad.
Despite the many enhancements, as we’ve already said, the new version is 33 percent thinner – at just 8.8mm, which makes it even slimmer than the latest iPhone 4.
Normally, a smaller lighter device would mean a smaller battery, however Apple said the iPad 2 will retain a battery life of up to 10 hours. There is over one month of standby before it needs to be recharged.
A new accessory cable will also offer mirrored HDMI video out to HDTVs for 1080p high-definition output. The $39 cable allows users to charge their iPad 2 while using the video out feature.
Another accessory announced by Apple is a magnetic “smart cover,” which covers the front of the device. Covering the front of the device automatically locks the device, while taking it off will unlock it. Microfibers on the screen cover are said to clean the iPad 2 display, while magnets will automatically align the cover on the screen.
The software operating system is being updated to iOS 4, while a number of new Apps have been unveiled linked to movie editing and uploading video clips to the internet. It will also allow users to touch and play virtual instruments including grand piano, drums and guitar.
In another innovation, the second generation iPad will come in both black and white colors with both versions available to order immediately.
Mr Jobs drew cheers from the audience with a promise the new improved iPad will be no more expensive than the original, starting at $499 and going up to $829 in the U.S. from March 11. [via The Telegraph (UK), Daily Mail (UK), Washington Post, AppleInsider and Gizmodo]