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Technology giant Apple (AAPL) has unveiled an updated version of its revolutionary iPad tablet PC to much fanfare at a packed event in San Francisco. The device, being called the iPad 2, compatible with the cellular networks of AT&T (T - Free AT&T Stock Report) and Verizon (VZ - Free Verizon Stock Report), appears to be a big improvement over its predecessor: It is thinner and lighter (weighing 1.3 pounds, versus 1.5 pounds); has a dual core processor and higher-quality graphics; has front- and rear-facing cameras that better support video chatting; and comes in both black and white versions.

These enhanced features should be well received by Apple's loyal followers at a time when the company is set to face stepped-up competition from the likes of Motorola Mobility (MMI), Samsung, Research In Motion (RIMM), and Dell (DELL). Motorola's Xoom, in particular, which is powered by Google's (GOOG) Android operating system and has already launched to high praise from the tech press, looks to be a formidable rival to the new iPad 2.

Meanwhile, the product announcement was notable for another reason: The appearance of CEO Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave from the company. Mr. Jobs, looking a bit frail, did not comment about his health, however, or give any indication as to when he might return to lead Apple. (Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has taken over the day-to-day operations of the company in Mr. Job's absence.)

 

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.