SAN FRANCISCO — Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, interrupted his medical leave to introduce the company’s much-anticipated new iPad, a thinner, faster and lighter version of its popular tablet computer that will sell at the same price as the original models.
Mr. Jobs, whose appearance on stage in an auditorium here was greeted by a standing ovation, alluded to his leave but did not say whether he was planning to return to the company. “We’ve been working on this product for a while and I just didn’t want to miss today,” he said. Apple overhauled the iPad in hopes of staying ahead of rivals who have introduced competing tablet computers. The iPad 2 includes front and rear facing cameras that allow video conversations, and it comes in black and white versions. It will be available on March 11 in the United States at prices ranging from $499 to $829. It will be available in more than two dozen other countries on March 26, Mr. Jobs said.
Alluding to the white iPhone 4, which Apple announced but never introduced, Mr. Jobs said the white iPad 2 would be available from Day 1. The new iPad’s 3G models will support connections from both AT&T and Verizon. The market for tablet computers is far more competitive now than when Apple introduced the iPad last year. Companies like Samsung, Motorola and HP have brought out tablet computers.
But Apple’s rivals have yet to make significant inroads with consumers. Mr. Jobs dismissed the competitors, saying the iPad 2 would leapfrog rivals, and keep Apple’s lead in the market. He said competitors have not been able to match Apple’s tablet on features or price. “We think 2011 is clearly going to be the year of iPad 2,” Mr. Jobs said. The new iPad is built around a new chip that Apple designed, called A5, which is far faster than its predecessor. Mr. Jobs said video performance would be nine times faster. At 8 millimeters, the new iPad is one third thinner than the original. Mr. Jobs said that at 1.3 pounds, it is two ounces lighter than its predecessor, yet it has the same, 10-hour battery life.
“It feels totally different,” Mr. Jobs said. He did not update figures for iPad sales. In January, the company said it had sold nearly 15 million iPads in 2010, generating about $9.5 billion in revenue. Mr. Jobs said that 65,000 apps have been tailored for the iPad.
Apple’s share of the global tablet market reached 85 percent by the end of 2010, according to estimates by eMarketer, a research firm. Apple will sell an estimated 34 million iPads in 2011, or more than triple the 10 million tablets expected to be sold by its rivals, eMarketer said.
Along with the new iPad, Apple will introduce a new version of its software, iOS, and two new popular applications already available on its Macintosh line of computers: iMovie and Garage Band.
Mr. Jobs also announced that titles from Random House would be available on its iBookstore. He said 100 million books have been downloaded since the company introduced the store a year ago. Random House was the only one of the major United States publishers whose books had not been available in the iBookstore.
An earlier version of this article misstated the availability of titles from Random House on the iPad. They have not been available in the iBookstore, but have been available on the iPad through Kindle and other apps.
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