A very thin but excited Steve Jobs has made a brief return from medical leave to unveil the highly anticipated Apple iPad 2.
The second-generation device boasts rear and front facing cameras, new chip and iOS upgrade to version 4.3, dual-core A5 processors, a slimmed-down profile -- and the same price as the first device.
Apple will start shipping both black and white iPad 2 devices to US customers on March 11.
Shipments to 26 additional countries, including Australia, will begin on March 25.
By reactions to the iPad 2's specifications on Twitter, Apple has exceeded expectations.
The new iPad has left recently unveiled would-be rivals in the dust on weight and size. At 8.8 mm thick, Apple shaved a third off its former 13.4mm thickness.
Dual cameras mean that iPad users will be able to use Facetime with the 100 million iPhones sold so far, Apple said in a statement.
"It feels totally different" said Jobs.
"In addition to preserving the battery life, we've also preserved the price. The same exact prices," Jobs said, according to an attendee.
iPad 2 will also come with film editing suite iMovie, HDMI video out cable and an optional new magnet-attached "Smart Cover" from US$39, according to the All Things Digital blog.
Jobs said Apple’s first iPad had left its competitors “flummoxed”, noting that while the iPad had 65,000 apps, Google’s Android had just 100 for tablets.
“Many have said this is the most successful consumer product ever launched,” Jobs gloated.
Journalists were banned from shooting video at the event, but Twitter and live blogs lit up with images of Jobs shortly after he walked out on stage.
“Steve looks thin, but otherwise healthy. Upbeat, strong voice, moving around naturally and well,” observed analyst Avi Greenhart.