Apple iPad 2 Unveiled by Steve Jobs

By Reuters  |  Print this article Print

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January, unveiled the thinner, faster iPad 2. Analysts say that at the price, which starts at $499, iPad 2 is still the tablet to beat.

SAN FRANCISCO, March 2 (Reuters) - A thin but energetic Steve Jobs made a surprise return to the spotlight on Wednesday, taking the stage to unveil Apple Inc's new iPad and drawing a standing ovation.

The Silicon Valley legend has been out on medical leave since late January and his reappearance, in trademark turtleneck and jeans, bolstered Apple shares and reassured investors and fans worried about his health.

Defying speculation in some tabloid reports that he was seriously ailing, Jobs took swipes at rivals and mocked competing tablet computers. Striding back and forth across the stage at the Yerba Buena Center, Jobs spoke passionately about the iPad 2's features as No. 2 and heir apparent Tim Cook looked on.

The $499 device is thinner than the iPhone 4, twice as fast as the last tablet, camera-equipped, and ships March 11 in the United States and March 25 in 26 more countries. The surprisingly fast roll-out highlights the fierce competition in the tablet market.

"We've been working on this product for a while and I just didn't want to miss today," Jobs told a packed auditorium in San Francisco with his characteristic flair and energy.

A relaxed-looking Jobs lingered near the theater stage for more than 20 minutes after the show wrapped up, chatting amiably with acquaintances and Apple employees.

In the run-up to the event, there had been almost as much speculation about whether Jobs would appear as there was about the device itself.

Jobs, who has been treated for a rare form of pancreatic cancer, remains on medical leave for an undisclosed condition. An Apple spokesman referred questions about his medical leave back to Jobs' statement in January that he planned to remain involved in major strategic decisions for the company.

His appearance on Wednesday comes at a critical moment. Apple is launching the next generation of its ground-breaking tablet computer just as its main adversaries are releasing their first such devices.

"Steve Jobs is the most important asset for Apple without a doubt and that's why investors are so curious about whether he will remain and continue to have an impact," said Robert Lutts, chief investment officer at Cabot Money Management.

"The stock went up after his appearance but not as much as it normally would if Apple had a fully healthy CEO."