Belying all rumours of him being extremely ill, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs CEO on Wednesday night launched second generation iPad 2.
Jobs made his presentation after he was given a standing ovation by a hall full of journalists and analysts from across the world who were probably happier seeing him on stage than iPad2.
But the new iPad almost stole Jobs' thunder. With price tags beginning at $499 for the 16 GB model, it runs on a new processor A5 which will double the speed and graphic display by nine times. At $899, the highest priced is the 64 GB model with WiFi and 3G.
Jobs pointed out iPad 2 will have as many as five models that are priced below $799 tag that its just launched rival Xoom from Motorola bears.
Almost as if inspired by Jobs who is said to be battling severe illness and has shed a lot of weight off late, iPad 2 is a lot thinner than the current iPad (one third), even thinner than the iPhone 4.
It bears two cameras at back and front for video conferencing; a HDMI port; a smart microfiber case cum stand that is also used to clean it; and will come in both black and white variants.
iPad 2 will start shipping from March 11 across 26 countries that doesn't include India. In US, both AT&T and Verizon will retail it with bundled data plans.
Jobs took potshots at all rivals who he said were flummoxed by the success of iPad and could only try to follow what has come to be "best-selling gadget ever".
"A lot of people have tried to copy this, said Jobs while making reference to sales figures of rivals such as Samsung which claims to have put out more advanced tablets in the market following iPad's launch a year ago.
"Many have said this is the most successful consumer product ever launched. Over 90% market share... our competitors were flummoxed," quipped Jobs.
Pooh pooing another rival Google Android's Honeycomb operating system, Jobs said they had only 100 apps to show on it. In contrast, Apple iPad had 65,000 apps just for photography alone.
"We recently paid out over $2 billion to developers in total. They have earned over $2 billion from selling their apps on the App Store," said Jobs.
Apple also shipped out 100 millionth iPhone recently.
The presentation was attended among others by Apple's COO Tim Cook and design head and Jobs' friend Jony Ive who according to unconfirmed reports is believed to be having a
tussle with the company's board regarding his impending relocation to London.
Times of India had earlier reported that the much-hyped tablet was accidentally listed on Amazon hours ahead of its official launch before being pulled down.
Interestingly, while Apple usually gives a makeover to each of its products in a year's time, there is buzz that the company might actually upgrade the just-launched iPad 2 with a far more advanced third generation tablet by the Fall this year itself.
According to The Economist, however, iPad could see a dent in its market share this year despite projections that Apple could sell 40 million units in 2011 as against 15 million it sold in nine months of 2010.
Other tablet manufacturers, especially those based on Google's Android operating system, are expected to erode Apple iPad's market share which stood at 90% of total tablet sales last year. Here are 10 most expected tablets to watch out for in 2011 .
What may be worrisome for Apple is the speculation that by 2015 the company's market share could fall below 40%, said the magazine.
This year is likely to see a huge number of Android-based tablet PCs flooding the market, with almost every mobile and PC maker jumping in the fray with their alternatives.
Industry watchers claim that of these, the ones that are most likely to pose a challenge to iPad will be RIM's Playbook and Motorola's Xoom which has just been launched in the market.