FRAMINGHAM 2 MARCH 2011 - Apple CEO Steve Jobs today took the stage in San Francisco to introduce his company's newest iPad.
"We've been working on this product for a while, and I didn't want to miss it," said Jobs, who received a standing ovation from reporters and others at the invitation-only event Wednesday morning.
It was Jobs' first public appearance since he stepped away from Apple in January to take an indefinite medical leave.
The new iPad 2 -- the name that wags had stuck on the new device, and the one Apple confirmed today -- is faster, thinner and lighter, said Jobs.
But it's not cheaper: Apple will retain the prices of 2010's iPad. The Wi-Fi versions start at $499 for a 16GB model and climb to $699 for a 64GB configuration, while the 3G iPads are priced from $629 to $829. The 3G models will be available for both AT&T and Verizon, which base their networks on competing cellular technologies.
The iPad 2 will ship March 11 in the U.S. and on March 25 in at least 26 other countries, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.
Jobs boasted of the iPad 2's new features and components, with the latter including a new dual-core processor -- an Apple-designed chip dubbed the A5 -- that he said doubled the speed of the tablet. Graphics processing, he added, is up to nine times faster.
As most pundits expected, the iPad 2 includes a pair of cameras -- one facing the front of the device, the other rear-facing, letting users take video and still photographs as well as conduct videoconferencing calls using Apple's FaceTime video chat application. FaceTime debuted last summer with the iPhone 4.
The new tablet is 33% thinner and tips the scales at 1.3 lbs., compared with the 1.5 lbs. of the original, said Jobs, and will come in both black and white models, a first for the iPad.
"Nothing approaches this," said Jobs, who took shots at tablet competitors, including Samsung, at several points during his time on stage. "Our competitors were flummoxed" by the original, he said.
Apple also said it will update the iOS operating system next week to Version 4.3, which will be available for all iPads, the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch, and the AT&T version of the iPhone.
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