Claiming over 90 percent share of the tablet market for the current iPad, a gaunt Steve Jobs personally took the stage today (March 2) at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters to introduce the company’s newest version of the device: the iPad2.
Jobs, who has taken an indefinite health-related leave of absence from the company, told the audience, consisting of press and Apple employees, “We've been working on this product for awhile, and I didn't want to miss it." It was the only reference, albeit oblique, that he made to his personal status.
The iPad2 is essentially an updated version of the current tablet; Jobs claimed the company had sold 15 million units in 2010 with revenues of $9.5 billion from that product alone.
- New features include:a new dual-core Apple A5 processor, which Apple claims will be 2 times faster than the current device.
- Front and rear-facing cameras for video conferencing and picture-taking.
- A thinner, lighter unit weighing 1.3 pounds (from the older device’s 1.5 pound weight, and about 2/3rds the thickness (8.8mm vs. 13.4mm).
- A gyroscope, putting the iPad2 in line with the iPhone4 and iPod Touch.
- White and black versions.
The new pad will be priced at the same levels as the original iPad, starting at $499, and the battery life is unchanged from the previous version.
A 3G network version will be available from both Verizon and AT&T.
Most of the features were rumored well before the event with the exception of the dual-core processor. Some might have found the 3G-only version surprising, since both AT&T and Verizon are heavily invested in promoting their 4G network capabilities.
Two accessories were announced that are worth noting: an Apple cable enabling iPad users to port high-definition images and video to HDTV sets via an HDMI port, and a new magnetically attached cover available in multiple colors, polyurethane, and leather. Pricing for both starts at $39.
Some apps previously available on iPhones and Mac computers will now be available on the iPad including iMovie, FaceTime and PhotoBooth.
The star of the event may not have been the iPad, but may well be the new GarageBand app, usually part of Apple’s iLife suite of creative applications, that allows people to create music. The new iPad version will allow people to record up to eight tracks of music, and will includeSmartInstruments, package that will allow people to play various instruments, including the ability to strum a (digital) guitar. It appears at first glance to be a near-complete music creation and recording studio that could hold huge promise for amateur and professional music creators to create music on the fly.
Jobs also excoriated the competition, scornfully comparing their app numbers to the iPad’s roster (e.g., a claimed 100 apps specifically designed for Android Google tablets vs. the iPad’s 60,000) and in one slide, referring to the competition as "Year of the Copycat." The Google logo was displayed, as were the names of HP, Samsung, Blackberry, and Motorola.
The conference ended with Jobs quoted by Engadget as saying, “"This is worth repeating. It's in Apple's DNA that technology is not enough. It's tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it's the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive."
It had the ring of a valedictory statement. Hopefully for Apple's many admirers, it is not Steve Jobs’ final coda.
Note: This report was compiled from viewing the live on-line blogging of Apple event by CNET and Engadget. I found the Engadget coverage superior both in its full quotes and generous use of photos. On rare occasions, Apple streams its events live; this was not one of them so the live blogs are invaluable.