Steve Jobs Unveils Apple's iPad 2

Steve JobsApple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to unveil the iPad 2, a surprising move given the visionary founder is on medical leave. Jobs's presence, along with the latest version of the hot selling iPad, helped nudge Apple's shares forward.

But perhaps the best news for Apple investors is that the company plans to begin shipping in the U.S. on March 11 with a rollout to 26 countries the following week. This will add a little juice to Apple's fiscal second-quarter revenues, compared with the original iPad launch, which rolled out at the start of the fiscal third quarter last April.

Apple's Shares Edge Up

Shares of Apple (AAPL) climbed a slight 0.80% to $352.09 a share in late afternoon trading, advancing a tad more than the broader markets. Analysts previously said they weren't expecting a huge pop in Apple's stock because it was basically a refresh of an existing product, rather than something totally new.

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Another thing investors will likely appreciate is Apple is planning to offer the iPad 2 at a starting price of $499, similar to that of the iPad. If it had cut the price on the iPad 2, given the onslaught of competition it's facing from other tablet computer makers, Wall Street would have been surprised -- and Apple's stock price potentially dinged.

"Many have said this is the most successful consumer product ever launched. Over 90% market share. Our competitors were flummoxed," boasted Jobs in an Engadget report.

The Year of the Copycats

Hovering above on a large screen, a slide declared 2010 as the year of the iPad and 2011 as the year of the copycats, featuring logos of Research In Motion's BlackBerry (RIMM) PlayBook, Motorola Mobility's (MMI) Xoom, Samsung's Galaxy Tab and HP's (HPQ) TouchPad tablet. In some ways, it was an extension of an earlier Jobs rant on the tablet competition that he made during Apple's fourth-quarter earnings call.

Apple sold 15 million iPads during a nine-month period in 2010, bringing home $9.5 billion in revenues, Jobs boasted. In its fiscal first quarter in alone, iPad sales accounted for 17% of Apple's $26.7 billion in revenues.

The iPad 2 largely falls into the category of faster and better, versus a major overall with revolutionary new features. The tablet includes a new A5 chip and dual-core CPU design that aims to run two times faster and nine times faster on the graphics end. iPad 2 also went on a diet, shaving off 33% of its girth and weighing in at 1.3 pounds. It also comes gussied up in white, as well as its traditional black. Apple stole a couple of features from its iPhone and iPod, such as a rear- and front-facing camera and built-in gyroscope.

A Comforting Sight

One of the new features is a bendable cover designed to protect the screen and that can serve as a backrest to prop up the device.

For investors, the new features may not seem all that groundbreaking, but shareholders likely got some comfort in seeing Jobs on stage. The CEO's medical leave announced in January threw the stock for a loop temporarily, as investors were left wondering if he'll be returning soon. Ironically, however, investors recently voted down a shareholder proposal that called for Apple to disclose its CEO succession plans. And some mom-and-pop investors expressed confidence in Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook to manage the company just fine.
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