Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs has unveiled the newest version of his company's iPad tablet computer.

The iPad 2 is a "dramatically faster" dual core processor device that is 33 per cent thinner than the original, Jobs announced Wednesday. Its new features include cameras that can be used with the iPad 2's video-conferencing software, FaceTime. 

The device is shipping March 11 in the U.S. and March 25 in Canada.

The iPad "moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again," Jobs said in a statement.

Jobs was greeted with a standing ovation when he appeared for the announcement at the Yerba Buena Center for Arts in San Francisco, bloggers reported live from the event.

He had personally unveiled the iPad in January 2010, calling it a "magical and revolutionary product."

However, there were questions about Jobs's health and about whether he would appear at Wednesday's event because he'd announced an indefinite leave from the company in January. In recent years, Jobs has dealt with pancreatic cancer and had a liver transplant.

Apple says iPad 2 will have the same 10-hour battery life as the original iPad. It will range in price from $499 US for the WiFi 16 GB version to $829 for the 64 GB version that supports both WiFi and 3G.

The launch of the iPad 2 had been anticipated since the Cupertino, Calif.-based company sent invitations last week to journalists asking them to "join Apple March 2 for a Special Event" and "see what 2011 will be the year of." The invitation featured the date with the upper right corner peeling off to show what appears to be an iPad.

Apple also used the event Wednesday to announce a new operating system, iOS 4.3, and new accessories for the iPad, including a magnetic cover that automatically puts the device into sleep mode and an HD video output cable that can be used while the device is charging.


The Cupertino, Calif.-based company sent invitations last week to journalists asking them to 'join Apple March 2 for a Special Event.' ((PCMag))

The iPad has sold roughly 15 million units since it first hit stores in April.

Since the iPad's launch, many other companies have come out with their own tablet models. Waterloo, Ont.-based Research In Motion unveiled the first version of its BlackBerry PlayBooks in September. Samsung's Android-powered Galaxy Tab launched in November. Motorola's Xoom and Dell's diminutive Streak 7 were among tablets unveiled at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Jobs spent part of the iPad 2 announcement taking jabs at competitors' tablets, accusing them of "scrambling to copy the first generation iPad."

Bloomberg reported that tablets running Google's Android operating system claimed a 22 per cent share of tablet computer shipments around the world in the quarter ended Dec. 31, according to the market research firm Strategy Analytics. That has eroded Apple's share of the tablet market to 75 per cent from an earlier high of 95 per cent.