What makes someone get up at 5am on a Thursday morning to read websites?  The fact that the people writing or blogging those websites are sitting in a theatre room in San Francisco watching Apple CEO Steve Jobs announce a new product.  As expected, the iPad 2 is now official.

Steve Jobs took to the stage to a standing ovation – given his recent health issues, for the fans, the media, and also shareholders – This was somewhat re-assuring to many.

So, after some ‘updates’ including announcing that 15 MILLION iPads were sold in 2010 (just 9 months), Steve moved onto the big announcement.

click Continue Reading for my thoughts on the iPad 2.

iPad 2 - Black and White

As I said almost every time I was interviewed yesterday, there was always going to be a headline sell point on this one and here it is – “Faster, Thinner and now with Cameras”

And you know what, it REALLY is every one of those things.

Yes, Cameras front and back – as expected.  Expect the rear camera to shoot 720p video, so it can be labelled HD video recording.  Mainly this is to link in the Apple FACETIME push, across the iPhone 4, iPod Touch and iPad 2 range.  Plus on your mac.

So, is it faster?  Steve Jobs put up a slide suggesting many multiples of improvement –  including 9 times graphics performance.  This is a Dual Core processor, known as the A5 – the Dual Core allows better application processing and multi-tasking (within apps as well as across the platform)

That’s a TICK for Faster.

Is it Thinner? Oh My Lord yes.  This is – in my opinion THE feature of the iPad 2.  The iPad is a thin device, thinner than any other Tablet I can think of.  The new one? – ONE THIRD thinner.  Thinner than the iPhone 4, almost the thickness of just the rounded back of the first iPad.  It is staggering really – given that normally to make this type of advance in design and engineering, you need to sacrifice something else. Battery life? no – that’s as good as it always has been, and performance, well, that’s proven to be better.

So, what else is there.

It will come in both BLACK and WHITE on day one – the white colour is just the colour of the bevel around the sceen – not the back of the device.

The US version will be the SAME price – which is to be expected also, Apple, on Tablets is actually one of the best priced devices – normally they are ‘overpriced’ but not this time, Samsung and Motorola are both shipping at similar or more expensive prices.

Australian prices are again unavailable at announcement – while we can certainly expect it to be the same price or better, I don’t think we should hold out too much hope.  Our best hope is the Exchange price – but, don’t hold out too much hope.  If I was to guess, I’d predict the price in Australia will be LOWER – just enough to make that headline “Faster, Thinner and lower in price”.

The device still comes in WiFi and 3G configurations – and in the same 16/32/64 Gig sizes.  Another disappointing thing really, because Flash memory is cheap – let’s drop the 16Gb and up the top level to 128! Some apps are 1 Gb!

You can also now get a dongle which allows direct HDMI output, so you can share your screen on a TV – very useful for showing Angry Birds at 55inches to your friends:)

Available March 11 in the US, March 25 in Australia – will you get one??

Comment from Telstra:

We’re delighted to confirm that Telstra will support this new Apple iPad on our Next G network when it arrives in Australia. The original iPad was a huge hit with our customers and exceeded all sales expectations — today more than 100,000 of these touch-screen devices are connected to the Next G network. We know our customers are going to love the second generation iPad which will help them take a world of entertainment and information which them on the go. And teaming it with Australia’s largest and fastest national mobile broadband network will allow people to enjoy the benefits of fast, reliable internet connectivity in more places. Telstra customers will be able to connect their iPads to the Next G network via Telstra’s existing Pre-Paid plans for Apple iPad

Here’s the full announcement from Apple Australia:

SYDNEY, Australia – 3 March, 2011 – Apple® today introduced iPad™ 2, the next generation of its magical device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading ebooks and much more. iPad 2 features an entirely new design that is 33 percent thinner and up to 15 percent lighter than the original iPad, while maintaining the same stunning 9.7-inch LED-backlit LCD screen. iPad 2 features Apple’s new dual-core A5 processor for blazing fast performance and stunning graphics and now includes two cameras, a front-facing VGA camera for FaceTime® and Photo Booth®, and a rear-facing camera that captures 720p HD video, bringing the innovative FaceTime feature to iPad users for the first time. Though it is thinner, lighter, faster and packed with new features, iPad 2 still delivers up to 10 hours of battery life* that users have come to expect. iPad 2 is available in black or white and introduces the innovative iPad 2 Smart Cover in a range of vibrant polyurethane and rich leather colours

“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again.”

With the new front and rear cameras, iPad 2 users can now make FaceTime calls to millions of iPhone® 4, iPod touch® and Mac® users so they can see family and friends anywhere there is Wi-Fi. Photo Booth lets you apply fun visual effects, including eight photo special effects like Squeeze, Twirl and Kaleidoscope, to photos captured by either camera.

iPad 2 comes with iOS 4.3, the latest version of the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, with new features including faster Safari® mobile browsing performance; iTunes® Home Sharing; enhancements to AirPlay®;** the choice to use the iPad side switch to either lock the screen rotation or mute audio; and Personal Hotspot to share an iPhone 4 mobile data connection over Wi-Fi.*** Additional iPad 2 features include a built-in gyro for advanced gaming; HSUPA support for enhanced 3G upload speeds on iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, and HDMI Video Mirroring that lets users mirror their iPad screen on an HDTV using an optional adapter.

The innovative new iPad 2 Smart Cover provides protection for the iPad screen while maintaining its thin and lightweight profile. Designed with a unique self-aligning magnetic hinge that makes it easy to attach and remove, the new iPad 2 Smart Cover automatically wakes iPad 2 when it’s opened and puts it to sleep when it’s closed, and has a soft microfibre lining to help keep the screen clean. The Smart Cover also folds into a stand for typing or viewing videos and is available in vibrant polyurethane or rich leather in a range of colours, including a (PRODUCT) RED one which helps support the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Apple also introduced two new apps: iMovie® and GarageBand® for iPad. With iMovie, iPad 2 users can shoot and edit videos right on their iPad and post their movies to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and their MobileMe℠ gallery; watch them on their iPod®, iPhone or iPad; as well as view them on their HDTV using AirPlay and Apple TV®. GarageBand turns your iPad into a collection of touch instruments and 8-track recording studio, allowing you to perform with onscreen keyboards, guitars, drums and basses using multi-touch gestures – even if you don’t play a musical instrument.

iPad 2 runs almost all of the over 350,000 apps available on the App Store and there are more than 65,000 native iPad apps available from an incredible range of apps in 20 categories, including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel. The iTunes Store gives iPad users access to the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store with a catalogue of over 14 million songs, and thousands of TV episodes and films including stunning high definition video. The iBooks® app for iPad includes Apple’s iBookstore℠, the best way to browse, buy and read books on a mobile device.

Pricing & Availability iPad 2 will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK on 25 March; and in many more countries around the world in the coming months. Further international availability and pricing will be announced at a later date.