A gaunt looking Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance, in trademark black turtleneck, on the stage to launch the new iPad - surprising those who expected him not to be present due to ill health.
The co-founder and CEO of Apple has been on medical leave since January. Jobs took swipes at rivals and mocked competing tablet computers while he evangelised the iPad 2's features.
The new $499 (US price) tablet is slimmer than the iPhone 4, twice as fast as the current iPad, equipped with two cameras and ships March 11 in the United States and March 25 in the UK and 25 more countries - bucking industry rumours that retail availability would be delayed.
There is a new OS to go with the iPad and tablet and touch friendly versions of Mac software like Photo Booth, Facetime video calling and Garage Band music making will be available.
Cosmetic changes allow you to choose a white bezel, or add a neat magnetically held cover in plastic or leather.
But the iPad 2's weight is similar to the older model, weighing 590g (1.3lb) compared with the 680g (1.5lb) of the original.
Jobs said the iPad 2 was an all-new design rather than just being a tweaked version of the iPad.
It will also be available in both black and white from the launch date.
"We've been working on this product for a while and I just didn't want to miss today," Jobs told a packed auditorium in San Francisco.
"The hardware is as good as anything on the market, the price is still very aggressive, and the software just buries the competition," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. "They're still the guys to beat by a large margin."
"This does serious damage to the competitors in the market. Xoom now looks like an extraordinarily expensive tablet, and the HP tablet looks under-featured."
Apple sold nearly 15 million iPads in nine months of 2010, two or three times as many as analysts had predicted. The company is expected to sell 30 million or more this year, which would generate close to $20 billion in global sales.
But the company faces a growing number of competitors from heavyweights such as Motorola, Research in Motion, HP and Samsung.
Tablets are seen as a must-have device for consumers and many businesses over the next few years. Analysts expect the market to surge to more than 50 million units this year, and 200 million units by 2015 - at the expense of netbooks and laptops.
As in the smartphone market, Apple's chief rival is expected to be Google's Android platform, which is free to license and is being used on a number of rival tablets.
Apple is betting on the iPad, along with the iPhone,to fuel the company's growth over the next several years. The two product lines already make up more than half the company's revenue.
The new iPad is being priced aggressively low versus the competition, both to dominate the market and because the company can leverage its own retail network and pre-bought manufacturing capacity..