Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs is on medical leave, but that didn't stop him from making a surprise public appearance to unveil the iPad 2, an upgraded tablet computer that could help the company fend off a slew of rivals in the burgeoning market.Alas this device is still a bit out of my reach :(
"We've been working on this product for a while and I just didn't want to miss the day," Jobs said shortly after receiving a standing ovation Wednesday. Jobs, who took the highly publicized leave in mid-January, has battled pancreatic cancer. He received a liver transplant in 2009.
The iPad 2 will go on sale March 11 at the same prices as its predecessor, starting at $499 for the entry-level device with Wi-Fi only and going up to $829 for the version with a 3G cellular connection. Consumers can get the cellular iPad 2 from both AT&T and Verizon without signing a long-term contract, though the monthly data fee can be $35 or more.
Apple highlighted the new iPad's lighter weight — 1.3 pounds compared with the 1.5-pound original — as well as the addition of front- and back-facing video cameras that allow users to conduct video chats. The device has a newer computer processor that will make it run faster and allow for smoother performance of video-intensive applications like games and movies, Apple said.
Jobs spent considerable time showing off a new case for the iPad. Apple said the case for the original device was too bulky and interfered with its performance. The newer case, which Apple calls a "smart cover," magnetically attaches to the front of the iPad to create a kind of screen protector and automatically puts the machine into sleep mode when it is attached.
Though none of the new features were particularly surprising, analysts believed the incremental enhancements would allow Apple to keep its place at the top of the tablet market.