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Apple Unwraps iPad 2

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Apple unveiled its much-anticipated iPad 2 on Wednesday (Mar. 2), a lighter (by 0.2 ounces), faster (twice the processing speed) and thinner (by one third) version of the tablet computer that set the tech industry’s tongues wagging last April. And among the technorati, the early reaction has ranged from positive to wow.

“Apple just makes damn fine products,’” wrote CNET’s Donald Bell. “Having had a few minutes with the iPad 2, I can say that it is every bit as stunning as the original.”

Meanwhile, TechCrunch’s MG Sigler raved about how much better the iPad 2 felt in his hands compared to last year’s model. “It is pretty incredible how much better it feels in your hands than the original iPad," Sigler wrote. "I happened to bring my old iPad with me, so I pulled it out to compare. There is no comparison. The iPad 2 is much, much nicer to hold.”

Regarding Apple’s claim that a newly designed chip makes the iPad 2 twice as fast? Engadet’s Vlad Savov is a believer: “We've gotten our first hands-on with the iPad 2, and, boy oh boy, it's fast!”

Apple added a camera to this version of the iPad and an HDMI connection port. But those features were anticipated. The company didn’t do anything radical, such as dropping the $499  to $829 price tag (though the iPad 1 is now $100 cheaper). Om Malik of GigaOm said current iPad owners needn’t fret that they missed the boat, but new tablet buyers should probably cough up the extra hundred bucks to buy the iPad 2. "Being an owner of a 3G iPad, I am hard-pressed to spring for the upgrade. I am still getting maximum mileage out of the first-generation device,” said Malik. “That said, if you are a first-time tablet buyer, [the iPad 2] is perhaps your best option in the market right now.”

Overall, the biggest buzz moments from Wednesday’s event were the new case Apple introduced—and the surprise appearance of a gravely ill Steve Jobs.

"We've been working on this product for a while, and I just didn't want to miss the day," he said to a standing ovation at Apple’s event.

Still, it’s doubtful that many publishers will be applauding the iPad 2’s arrival, at least until the company rethinks its restrictive subscription model.