Heeeeeeeeeeeere’s Steve: Jobs Helps Apple Announce the iPad 2

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The iPad 2 will render all medical professionals obsolete. Also: priests. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple didn't offer its customary live footage of today's much-anticipated event, but the techies frantically live-blogging had to know the announcement was going to be as-big-as-billed when Steve Jobs stepped onstage. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, host of the original iPad launch, erupted with cheering, applause, and then a standing ovation for Jobs, whose medical leave kept him away from Apple's recent board meeting for the second time in a decade. But Jobs has always been his company's best salesman and as he told the crowd, "We've been working on this product for a while, and I just didn't want to miss today."

MacWorld's Jason Snell reported that the CEO looked "like he's looked the last couple of years." After calling 2010 "the year of the iPad," with almost 15 million sold in just nine months, Jobs went on to give the people what they came for. Now that everyone has an iPad, 2011 might become the "year of the copycats." But Jobs said Apple hasn't been "resting on our laurels."

Enter the iPad 2. We don't even have one yet, but sweet Jesus, we can't wait to throw that nine-month-old pile of obsolete junk (that we don't own) in the trash and replace it with this shiny new thing. What can consumers expect? For one, a completely new design. Rather than just incremental improvements, the version 2.0 will be dramatically faster thanks to a new chip called the A5. Expect the CPU to be twice as fast and graphics to be nine times as fast. It will also feature both rear and front-facing cameras. And Jobs put it on a diet: The iPad 2 will be a whopping one-third thinner than the first iteration and thinner than the iPhone 4. It also lost 0.2 lbs. It will come in white and black, and work on both AT&T and Verizon, with the same ten-hour battery life. The price starts at $499, and five of the six models (depending on storage and whether or not they have 3G) will be under $799. Start standing in line, because it's shipping March 11 along with a nifty magnetized "smart cover" that you can remove in a second.

If this is what Jobs does during his medical leave, no wonder Apple's board doesn't want to talk about how they'd ever replace him in case of emergency.

Live Update: Apple iPad/iOS event [MacWorld]
iPad 2 Launch Live Coverage [Gizmodo]