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Apple iPad 2 Revealed, 33% Thinner, in Black and White, Starting at $499, in Stores March 11

The wait is over: Steve Jobs just strolled on stage and revealed the second generation iPad, the iPad 2. Here’s all you need to know about it.

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Here it is: We followed the rumors, the leaks, the speculation and the comings and goings of various peers and future competitors, but Apple‘s finally gone and revealed the updated iPad. Who presented the event? None other than CEO Steve Jobs himself.

The iPad 2 is powered by an Apple A5 chip, a dual-core CPU that somehow consumes the same amount of power as the iPad 1’s A4 unit, but delivers “up to 2X” the speed. This also leads to faster graphics, which Jobs quoted as being “nine times” better than the iPad 1. The A5 is the “first dual-core tablet to ship in volume.”

iPad 2 is just 8.8mm deep, compared to the iPhone 4’s 9.3mm and original iPad’s chunky 13.4mm, and it’s also just 1.3 pounds–much less than the original’s 1.5 mass, and thus way more handler-friendly. It’s coming in both white and black (that’s the glass front bezel, not the aluminum back) and will will launch March 11th in the U.S. and it’ll be available in 26 nations from March 25th.

The twin cameras on front and back support PhotoBooth and Apple’s videocalling protocol FaceTime, the front unit is a VGA-res webcam, and the rear unit has 720p video recording powers. To go with the new video features, iMovie is now on the iPad, bringing simple touch-based editing and production skills directly to the tablet itself–it’s a $4.99 App Store app, available universally (so can we expect it on iPhones too?). An iOS GarageBand app is also en-route for the same price. The device will run iOS 4.3, which includes a much faster mobile Safari browser, iTunes Home Sharing for easy media streaming at home, better AirPlay features and the return of the screen orientation lock switch. This iOS refresh also brings the Wi-Fi hotspot skills that were revealed on the Verizon iPhone to the iPad.

Pricing may have been the first iPad’s secret killer feature, so Apple’s not messing with the recipe: The Wi-Fi only 16GB iPad 2 will launch at the same $499 as the original, and the most expensive 3G-enabled 64GB version will still cost $829.

In terms of accessories, the iPad 2 supports a new HDMI cable that hooks directly to the 30-pin iPod connector (and also supports charging via USB) which mirror’s the display onto an HDTV at up to 1020p full-HD resolution. The idea is to boost presentation skills of teachers and business folk, and the system even recognizes if you rotate the iPad. A new flush-fitting case has also been created, in multiple colors and coming with a neat magnetic latch that automatically conforms to the iPad’s shape.

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Revealing the iPad, Jobs began by noting that Apple’s competitors teased Apple for using the word “magical” and that the price wasn’t reasonable–he wondered what those same competitors are saying now. Jobs then gave us an update on iPad sales figures: 15 million in 2010, in just nine months–“More than every Tablet PC ever sold,” and earning Apple $9.5 billion in 2010 alone (there was even a little dig at Samsung’s Galaxy Tab sales figures). There are also over 65,000 iPad-specific apps, while the competition launches with “at most” a hundred apps.

Jobs began his iPad presentation noting that users have downloaded over 100 million ebooks from the iBookstore in well under a year’s availability, and that combined with the App Store and iTunes stores, Apple has just achieved over 200 million accounts in the stores, what jobs thinks is the most accounts with credit cards of any online service.

That’s a lot of statistics to back up that the iPad, and its ecosystem, has been an astonishing success.

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About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)

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