Fri, Mar 04, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Apple’s Steve Jobs returns to put on lively iPad 2 show

Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

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.

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.

FEATURES

The US$499 device is thinner than the iPhone 4, twice as fast as the previous tablet, camera-equipped, and ships on Friday next week in the US and on March 25 or March 26 in other 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.

Jobs, who has been treated for a rare form of pancreatic cancer, remains on medical leave for an undisclosed condition. His appearance on Wednesday comes at a critical moment. Apple is launching the next generation of its groundbreaking tablet computer just as its main adversaries are releasing their first such devices.

The iPad 2 goes on sale at AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless and at US$499 is about US$100 cheaper than Motorola Mobility’s Xoom. Its shares slid 4 percent.

Avian Securities analyst Matthew Thornton said Motorola investors were concerned by both its earlier-than-expected release and its still-aggressive pricing.

‘BURIES’ COMPETITION

“The hardware is as good as anything on the market, the price is still very aggressive and the software just buries the competition,” Gartner analyst Van Baker said. “They’re still the guys to beat by a large margin.”

“This does serious damage to the competitors in the market. Xoom now looks like an extraordinarily expensive tablet, and the HP tablet looks under-featured,” he said.

Apple sold about 15 million iPads in nine months of last year, two or three times as many as analysts had predicted. The company is expected to sell 30 million or more this year, which would generate close to US$20 billion in sales.

That is despite a growing cast of competitors such as Motorola, Research in Motion and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Tablets are seen as a must-have device for consumers and many businesses over the next few years. Analysts expect the market to surge to more than 50 million units this year and 200 million units by 2015.

As in the smartphone market, Apple’s chief rival is expected to be Google Inc’s Android platform, which is free to license and is being used on a number of tablets.

The iPad, along with the iPhone, is expected to fuel Apple’s growth over the next several years. The two product lines already make up more than half the company’s revenue.

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