Jobs breaks from medical leave to unveil iPad 2

FILE -- Apple Inc. Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs speaks at an Apple event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, Wednesday, March 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

March 2, 2011 7:27:19 PM PST
Apple CEO Steve Jobs made a unexpected appearance Wednesday to unveil the new iPad 2. He has been on indefinite medical leave since the start of the year, but he said this was one launch he didn't want to miss.

The surprise appearance brought everyone to their feet at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Jobs was back on the job, at least for this one event.

"We've been working on this product for a while, and I just didn't want to miss today," he said.

Jobs might have upstaged the announcement of the new iPad 2, but analysts say he may have helped to allay fears.

"By coming out on stage and taking control as he usually does and very much being in his element, I think should go a long way toward putting to rest a lot of the speculation," said CCS Insight research vice president John Jackson.

The iPad 2 is not an incremental upgrade. It is a newly designed tablet with a dual-core processor, which means it's faster. It displays graphics faster, too, and includes two cameras to do Facetime, Apple's video calling program. And it's one-third thinner.

It also sports a new cover design, held in place by magnets, that rolls up into a stand.

The entry price remains $499.

Taken together, Jobs says the competition can't touch the iPad because they think they're still making PCs.

"The hardware and the software are done by different companies, and they're talking about speeds and feeds, just like they did with PCs," said Jobs. "And our experience and every bone in our body says that that is not the right approach to this."

"What we're seeing is companies like Motorola and HP and Toshiba creating excellent products that they will struggle to sell at a price that's competitive with the iPad," said Forrester research analyst Sarah Rotman.

You can probably expect lines when the iPad 2 comes out a week from Friday. What will the availability be? Well, the company seems to be confident that it can roll it out later this month to over 20 other countries. So that sounds like they've got plenty of supply.

Jobs proved once again he is the face of Apple.

"Steve is not all of Apple. There's more to Apple than Steve Jobs, but it sure makes a hell of a difference on stage," said Gartner Research vice president Carolina Milanesi.

For more on the iPad 2 launch, read David Louie's Tech Blog for a detailed account of Jobs' presentation and all of the iPad 2's new features.

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