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Steve Jobs Stuns the Crowd at iPad 2 Event

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Apple hosted another bombastic event today in San Francisco. As expected, the iPad 2 was unveiled sporting some nifty features. But in a typical Cupertino twist, the device wasn't the biggest surprise of the show.

It looks as if Italian Apple blog was right! Steve Jobs took the stage in front of a cheering crowd on its feet. "We've been working on this product for awhile," Jobs said, "and I didn't want to miss it." Jobs appeared with his usual laid back excitement, with Jason Snell from Macworld saying, "I'd say Steve looks like he's looked the last couple of years."

As per usual, Jobs started off with the preliminary stuff -- namely iBooks. "Users have downloaded over 100 million books in less than a year. Today we're announcing that Random House will add 17,000 books to the iBookstore." Random House would become one of the 2,500 publishers already in the store -- including all of the six major outfits.

Jobs added that at 200 million accounts across the iTunes Store, he presumes that it outnumbers Amazon's undisclosed members.

Jobs continued with the typical Apple congratulations. Developers have earned $2 billion from the App Store, 100 million iPhones shipped, 15 million iPads sold in 2010 -- "More than every tablet PC ever sold," he disclosed. The big chief ran video of Apple execs, customers, and schools alike raving about the sleek tablet.

And, of course, there was the usual digs at Google and other competitors. After totaling the 65,000 apps specifically made for the iPad, the screen showed the Honeycomb logo with a paltry 100 count beneath it. (Yes, the Xoom is unquestionably overpriced, but give the Android tablets some time, Steve.) Driving the point home, Jobs declared 2010 "The Year of the iPad" and 2011 "The Year of the Copycats" with Samsung and HP logos joining the Honeycomb bee.

But onto the big announcement: The iPad 2 is here!

A very welcome dual-core A5 processor powers the device -- making the CPU twice as fast and graphics roughly nine times quicker. As expected, the iPad 2 sports front and rear-facing cameras, and the unit itself is only 8.8mm thick -- 33% thinner than the original iPad. The device will come with standard 3G access on both AT&T and Verizon models and, a curious crowd-pleaser, a white model will ship from day one.

Bells and whistles include a new gyroscope and 1080p HDMI output. A brand new "smart case" allows a handy kickstand for better video viewing and easier typing with the virtual keyboard.

About the battery life, "This has been tried and tested," Jobs said. "iPads get 10 hours of battery life. In addition to preserving the battery life, we've also preserved the price. The same exact prices." That means the iPad 2 will have the same $499 entry price and $829 for the 64GB Wi-Fi model.

All of which are available in the states March 11.

(See also: You Won't Believe How Much Motorola Xoom's Components Cost and INFOGRAPHIC: Apple iPad, Motorola Xoom, and Other Tablets Compared)

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