First of all, we’re glad Steve Jobs is back in action, in spite of being officially on medical leave and he did surprise us today, by popping up and announcing the iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. He also announced iOS 4.3, some iPad 2 accessories and nifty apps like Garage Band, Photo Booth and iMovie, but more on that after the break.

The keynote began with Jobs announcing Apple’s achievements, stuff like 100 million iPhones sold so far, 15 million iPad units sold in 2010 and 200 million Apple accounts. Over 2 billion dollars were paid to developers till now, which means that their allegiance to Apple is insured. It was fun to see Apple taking shots at the competition, reminding everyone that they have 65,000 tablet-specific apps in the App Store, while Android Honeycomb only has 100.

Apple’s CEO also called RIM, Samsung and Motorola tablets copycats and said that 2011 will be the year of the iPad 2. The specs below might give you an idea why:

  • CPU: 1GHz, dual core, Apple A5
  • Display: 9.7 inch LED multitouch, 1024 x 768 pixels
  • Memory: 16/32/64GB internal
  • Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, 3G (WiFi + 3G model only), Bluetooth, HDMI
  • Camera: back – 720p HD capture @ 30 fps, 5x digital zoom (photos); front – video capture, VGA @ 30 fps, geotagging
  • Battery: Li-Polymer, 10 hours of WiFi browsing
  • Others: digital compass, AGPS

Surprisingly enough, the slate will ship very soon, on March 11th, with a starting price of $499, just like the first iPad. This pricing applies to the WiFi-only 16GB version and can go up to $829, for the WiFi + 3G 64GB version. As speculated before, the device will be available right from the start in black and white, so there are no delays, like it happened with the iPhone 4.

As far as accessories are concerned, you’ll need a special HDMI adapter that costs $39 and Steve Jobs also introduced some nifty and colourful cases, or should we say bigger pouches for the iPad 2. These are called Smart Covers and they attach to the device using magnets. They will be available in many different colours, which could explain the colourful Yerba Buena facade before the event and you’ll get Smart Covers made of polyurethane for $39 or ones made from leather for $69.

iOS 4.3 was also announced during today’s event, with features like improved Safari performance, thanks to the Nitro JavaScript engine, iTunes home sharing  and improved AirPlay. iOS 4.3 also brings personal hotspot features to the iPhone 4, in case you’re wondering. Back to the iPad 2, a couple of very cool apps were created for this device, with stuff like Photo Booth aiding you with photo editing, while iMovie handles professional and intuitive video editing.

FaceTime was also shown on the iPad 2 and at last, Garage Band will reach the iPad, with tons of virtual instruments, mixing modes and over 250 loops. You’ll turn into a DJ or musician in no time, thanks to this nifty tool, that will hit the App Store on March 11th for $4.99. When all’s said and done, it was a brilliant day for Apple fans, who witnessed the return of Steve Jobs and also got to see the future of Apple tablets, as shown by the iPad 2.

Could 2011 really be the year of the iPad 2, as Jobs claimed in his keynote? If Honeycomb slates don’t lower this prices, it could be…

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