During a press event in San Francisco this morning, Apple CEO Steve Jobs – still officially on medical leave – unexpectedly took the stage himself to announce the fully redesigned iPad 2.

Dual-Core Processor, Faster Graphics – But Same Memory Sizes and Screen

The new iPad will sport a dual-core processor (dubbed the A5), feature a graphics chip that is 9 times as fast as the one in the current generation iPad and be one-third thinner and slightly lighter. The iPad 2 will have cameras in the front (VGA) and back (720p). Despite the faster processor, the battery life will remain the same (10 hours).

Despite all the rumors, the iPad 2’s screen will remain the same (9.7 inch, 1024×768 resolution).

Apple will ship GSM and CDMA versions from day one, so the iPad 2 will natively work on Verizon’s network, as well as AT&Ts. It will be available in black and white. The pricing will remain exactly the same as before, starting at $499 for the 16GB version.

The iPad 2 will be available in the U.S. on March 11th and is coming to Europe on March 25th.

The new iPad will allow full 1080p HDMI output for any application with the help of a $39 dongle.

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Apple also introduced a new cover for the iPad, which will be held in place with magnets. “With iPad 1, we went through all this effort to build a beautiful product, then covered it with a case,” said Steve Jobs. The new cover just clips to the device and a “micro-fiber screen” will clean the screen every time you close it. The cover also functions as a stand. It will be available in multiple colors. $39 for polyurethane, $69 for leather.iPad_2_cover

A Post-PC Device

One of the key messages of today’s presentation, which was repeated by Apple’s senior VP Phil Shiller and Jobs, was that the iPad is not a computer, but a “post-PC device.”

Talking Competitors

As usual, Jobs also took a stab at the iPads’ competitors, pointing out that nobody has really been able to match its pricing yet and that Samsung’s VP Lee Young-Hee himself noted that the company wasn’t able to sell many Galaxy tablets.

As for tablets powered by Google’s Honeycomb, Jobs just pointed out that Apple has 65,000 apps in its store and Google 100.

For Apple, the iPad has generated over $9.5 billion in revenue and garnered 90% of the tablet market within just a few months.

Jobs also announced that Apple now services accounts with credit card numbers from over 200 million users and paid out more than $2 billion to developers in the App Store so far. While Amazon does not release how many accounts its users have opened, Jobs believes that Apple now has more accounts with credit cards than any other online retailer.

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iOS 4.3: Faster Safari, PhotoBooth and Facetime

Apple also announced the next version of its iOS operating system. iOS 4.3 will be launched in conjunction with the iPad 2 on March 11.

photobooth_ipadiOS 4.3 will feature a significantly faster version of Safari, which will render JavaScript about twice as fast as the current version.

iOS 4.3 will also feature support for personal hotspots, which allows you to use WiFi to connect your laptops and other devices to the Internet via your iPhone 4 (a feature that was already available on the Verizon iPhone).

As expected, iOS 4.3 also features PhotoBooth and FaceTime support for iPad 2 and iPhone 4.

Oddly enough, Apple did not mention when iOS 4.3 will be available for the Verizon iPhone. Apple’s iOS 4.3 website only mentions the GSM models as being compatible with the new version.

iMovie for iPad

Apple also announced that it will bring iMovie, its consumer-oriented movie editor, to the iPad. iMovie for iPad looks a lot like the Mac version and feature a very similar set of tools, including a precision editor, transitions and enhanced audio editing features.

GarageBand for iPad

More surprising than the launch of iMovie for the iPad was the launch of GarageBand for iPad. The iPad is already a hit with musicians and now Apple will bring its own virtual instruments, guitar amps and 8-track recording to the iPad. GarageBand for iPad will also come with over 250 loops and additional sound files can be imported by sending yourself emails of your AAC files.

One nifty feature here is that Apple will use the iPad’s built-in accelerometer to measure the force of your taps if you are playing a virtual keyboard or drum kit.

GarageBand for iPad will be released on March 11 and cost $4.99. Apple and third-party manufacturers will likely offer adapters for connecting guitars and microphones to the iPad.

No Live Stream

Unlike during previous events, Apple did not offer a live video stream of the event today. We are not sure why, but can only hope that Apple will bring these live video feeds back for future events. A video of the event will likely be up on Apple’s site later this afternoon.

Image credit: Macworld