SAN FRANCISCO — Apple CEO Steve Jobs briefly emerged from his medical leave and walked on stage to a standing ovation Wednesday to unveil the second generation of the popular iPad, which will go on sale March 11 in the United States.
Jobs looked frail as he appeared in his signature black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and wire-rimmed glasses.
"We've been working on this product for a while, and I just didn't want to miss today," Jobs said. "Thank you for having me."
The next-generation tablet computer has a faster processor than the original iPads. As expected, it comes with two cameras for taking photos and video chatting. The battery life will be the same as the original — about 10 hours of usage and a month on standby.
The iPad 2 is also thinner — 8.8 millimeters instead of the current 13.4 millimeters.
"The new iPad 2 is actually thinner than your iPhone 4," Jobs said.
The original iPad, which burst onto the scene last April, was more popular than analysts imagined. Apple sold 15 million in nine months.
The rush for iPads sparked dozens of copycat touch-screen devices, but so far, none has broken into the mainstream consciousness the way the iPad has. In February, Motorola Mobility's Xoom, the most promising challenger so far, went on sale. It runs a new version of Google's Android software that was designed for tablets, not smart phones.
The new iPads will cost the same as the originals — $499 to $829, depending on storage space and whether they can connect to the Internet over a cell network. Apple said there will be black and white versions, despite its problems getting the promised white iPhone 4 models to market. The first iPad came only in black. In the United States, the iPad 2 will work on AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
Jobs also introduced a new accessory for the iPad that will let people connect the tablet to high-definition televisions, so they can watch videos up to 1080p in resolution on the bigger screen. The $39 part plugs into the iPad's charging port and connects to an HDMI cable.
Apple also introduced updates to the software that runs on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices.
The new system, iOS 4.3, includes support for FaceTime, Apple's video-chat program. The company said people can now hold conversations between iPads, iPhones and Mac computers.
The update turns iPhones and iPads with 3G cellular connections into personal WiFi hotspots, a feature prominent in rivals' products, so you can share the connection with computers or other devices.
The improved software also makes Apple's Safari Web browser run faster.