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Steve Jobs shows up for iPad release (live blog)

Steve Jobs makes surprise appearance at iPad 2 debut, March 2, 2011. CNET/James Martin

One year ago, Apple pointed the technology industry in a new direction when it introduced its iPad tablet computer. It wasn't that Apple was inventing a new category, as it did with its iPod music player. Let's say that it reinvented a category.

Simply put, the iPad was better - by far - than anything else on the market. People have bought some 15 million units since then. But nowadays, it's a new day and Apple faces a clutch of rivals whose tablet computers sport dazzling new features. Motorola recently debuted its Google Android-based Xoom, and HP won't be far behind with the WebOS-powered TouchPad, slated for shipping this summer. Also, long-time rival Microsoft seeks to squeeze Windows into a myriad number of form factors in its move to support ARM processors in the next version of the operating system.

The wait is now over. On Wednesday, the company took the wraps off the iPad 2.

As expected, the new tablet sports a camera and faster processors. It's thinner than the older model and it works not only on AT&T's 3G network, but also Verizon Wireless's 3G network. Apple also boosted the internal memory of the device from 256MB of RAM to 512MB, matching what can be found in Apple's iPhone 4.

The product debut got off to a raucous start when CEO Steve Jobs, who has been on sick leave from Apple, walked on stage.

"Good morning," he said to a standing ovation. "we've been working on this product for a while, and I didn't want to miss today."