The truth about yesterday's iPad 2 launch is that it didn't matter. Seeing Steve Jobs on stage looking like a CEO, on the other hand, was huge.
But don't take my word for it. In the minutes after Jobs appeared on stage to introduce Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) newest iOS device, the stock jumped more than 1%, ultimately closing up 0.8%. Jobs, not the iPad, was the catalyst investors cared about.
That's understandable. Jobs has long been the visionary underlying Apple's groundbreaking products. His uncompromising standards have led to multibagger returns for longtime shareholders.
But give Apple and the iPad 2 their due. A new dual-core A5 chip design adds a lot of speed, if you believe the reviews flying around the web as I write this.
"This thing is insanely fast. We're not joking -- it's blazingly fast. Everything the iPad 2 does feels like it's on turbo," wrote the good geeks over at Engadget, who also liveblogged the event.
And while Jobs wouldn't specify how, Apple also said it figured out how to reduce the thickness of the device by 33% while preserving the battery life of the earlier version.
Apple also gave the iPad a facial and a software makeover. Users will be able to choose between black and white models when the device hits stores in the U.S. on March 11. A new cover, meanwhile, mimics the Mac's power cabling by using magnets to attach to the device. Pull it open, and the iPad 2 automatically awakens. Close it, and the device goes to sleep. A new iOS (version 4.3) and upgraded editions of iMovie and GarageBand, to be sold for $4.99 apiece, complete the package.
Jobs pitched it as a compelling alternative to a new crop of fast tabs based on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Honeycomb version of Android. But his finest moment came when taking a jab at Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) .
"Now some folks are out there saying they're only a little bit more expensive than us. When you look at this matrix, five of these six are less than $799," Jobs said, a clear reference to the $799 Moto wants for its Xoom tablet. Ouch.
In short, it was Jobs taking a break from medical leave to do what he does best and the clearest example of why investors were thrilled to see Mr. Showmanship back on stage where he belongs. Welcome back, Steve. We missed you.
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