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Apple's iPad Event: No Alarms and No Surprises

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Have we seen the end to Steve Jobs' notoriously clandestine Apple (AAPL)?

This Apple event contained the fewest number of surprises ever since Gizmodo got its hands on the iPhone 4 two months ahead of its launch. Almost every feature was accounted for, some months ahead of time, which implies that getting chewed out by Tim Cook is a walk in the park compared to being in Steve Jobs' sights.

But while it's a shame that Christmas morning was spoiled by repeated peeks at the gifts in the attic, that shouldn't detract from the numerous improvements Apple has made to its iPad and Apple TV lines.

Apple's big chief took the stage and began the conference in the usual sales-toutin' fashion. Noting the "post-PC revolution," Cook reported that Apple's portable devices have sold 172 million units just last year and account for a staggering 76% of the company's revenues. He then presented a video which showcased the many Apple Stores from around the world. If they didn't realize it before, Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) have a looong way to go if they want to compete in that arena.

Cook moved on to the App Store, which recently celebrated its 25 billionth download and an app number of 585,000. As we saw this week, those numbers certainly lit a fire under Google (GOOG) which -- although doing very well in the Android department -- just revamped its entire marketplace under the heading Google Play.

The CEO then announced the first of many spoiled surprises: a revamped Apple TV.

Now supporting streaming 1080p video, the new device will retain the familiar hockey puck look and feature a new interface, though it won't be the new iOS 5.1. Support for iTunes Match will be added, along with Photostream -- which will allow a user to snap a photo on his iPhone and immediately see it on the TV screen. Pretty nifty.

But perhaps the most welcome addition -- one that has long been present with audio but missing with video -- is a "Genius Recommendation." Hopefully that will usher in virtual channel lineups as a standard feature -- and that Google TV, Roku, Boxee, and TiVo (TIVO) follow suit -- completely negating the need for an antiquated cable hookup.

The new Apple TV will be available on March 16 for a paltry $99.

And then it was on to the star of the show, the updated iPad.

Senior VP of marketing Phil Schiller took the stage to show off the revamped device. As expected, the new iPad will feature a Retina Display with a gorgeous 2047x1536 resolution, though its 264 ppi falls fall short of the iPhone 4S' 326 ppi. Schiller touted 40% better color saturation, which just means richer hues. A new 5-megapixel camera will be able to capture and record 1080p video. Siri support has also been added.

The device will be running a dual-core A5X chip, which was also suspected. The A6 will likely make its debut with the iPhone 5.

And yes, there will be 4G support. (Give an early hello to the 4G iPhone!) Boasting speeds of 73Mbps on LTE, the 4G iPad models will be available for AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) in the States, and Rogers (RCI), Bell Canada (BCE), and Telus (TU) in Canada. Sorry, Sprint (S)!

Battery life remains strong: 10 hours for normal use, nine on 4G. With the extra oomph in speeds, the new iPad is a little heavier at 1.4 pounds, but hardly enough to sprain your shoulders.

Keeping competition tight with Android, RIM (RIMM), and the upcoming Windows 8 tablet, the third-generation iPad will maintain the same prices as the existing models -- $499, $599, and $699 for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions. Add in the 4G network support, and the prices increase to $629, $729, and $829, respectively.

Like the Apple TV, the new model launches on March 16. Pre-orders start today.

And judging from yesterday's news, it looks like Apple's prepared for strong demand.

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