The iPad 2 shared the spotlight with the man who presented it—Jobs, who announced in January that he would take a third leave of absence to focus on his health. In the last decade, Jobs, 56, has survived a rare but curable form of pancreatic cancer and undergone a liver transplant.

Jobs, looking frail in his signature black mock turtleneck and blue jeans, was greeted with a standing ovation.

“We’ve been working on this product for a while, and I just didn’t want to miss today,” Jobs told an audience that included bloggers and Apple enthusiasts. “Thank you for having me.”

He did not address his health or say if and when he would return.

Tablet computers existed long before the iPad, but it took Apple to build a device that made sense to consumers. Apple simplified the software, designed a sleek, shiny shell, and sold 15 million of the iPads in nine months.

Competitors, including Dell Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., have been trying since last year to lure consumers with smaller tablets, without much success.

In February, Motorola Mobility Inc.’s Xoom went on sale with a new version of Google Inc.’s Android software that was designed for tablets, not smart phones.

For a moment, the Xoom looks promising, with a comparably sized screen, a faster processor, and a few other bells and whistles the original iPad didn’t have. But the iPad 2 catches up again with dual cameras and a faster chip inside. It pulls ahead with a slimmer profile and the ever-expanding number of tablet-specific apps.

After its March 11 U.S. launch, the iPad 2 goes on sale March 25 in 26 other markets, including Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and other European countries.

Apple also introduced updates to the software that runs on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The company said the update, iOS 4.3, will work on iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 models, except the new version for Verizon Wireless.


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