Apple CEO Steve Jobs returned from his medical leave to to unveil the next-generation iPad. The new iPad is thinner than an iPhone 4, boasts faster processing speeds, and sports two cameras for Apple’s FaceTime feature.
“While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again,” Jobs said at a launch event here Wednesday.
A surprised a audience gave him a standing ovation and tech bloggers immediately and breathlessly tweeted out the news.
The iPad 2 also comes in both black and white versions, and will be available in the US from March 11. Prices start at $499 for a WiFi-only model. There are a total of nine different iPad 2 models, with Verizon and AT&T having their own distinct 3G versions.
Apple has also taken strides in making the iPad 2 more than just a device for consuming media, as its predecessor was. With the announcement of tablet versions of its Garageband and iMovie apps, it is hoping the new iPad will be used as a content-creation device.
In addition, Apple has also designed its own case for the iPad 2, called Smart Cover. The case (below) uses a magnetic hinge, folds into a stand for typing, and will wake or put to sleep the tablet when opened or closed, respectively.
Along with the iPad 2, Jobs also announced an update to iOS. Version 4.3 includes a faster Safari, enhancements to AirPlay and the Personal Hotspot feature. The latter will allow users to share their iPhone 4 cellular data connection over WiFi with up to five devices.
But the appearance of Jobs made a bigger splash than the unveiling of the new Apple iPad.
Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. He had a liver transplant in 2009. On January 17, he took his second leave from the company in the past two years.
Speculation about Jobs’ health had increased in recent weeks, with tabloids weighing in with unsubstantiated reports.
Some of those rumours were tempered when Jobs was photographed in February attending a private dinner with President Barack Obama and other Silicon Valley elite.