New iPad 2 takes portable video to the next level

By Cory Bergman 

Steve Jobs took the wraps off the new iPad 2 today, a faster, slimmer device with a bevy of video features: two video cameras, live chat, full-featured video editing, sync to Apple TV and HDMI out. In short, the best portable video device ever made. To date, the iPad has attracted plenty of attention from the print and magazine publishing world, but the new iPad 2 illustrates the true impact is on the world of TV and video.

Now for a few details. The device itself is thinner than the iPhone 4 — a full one-third thinner than the current iPad, with the same battery life. The front-and-back cameras are similar to the iPhone 4, which works with Apple’s FaceTime live chat app. The app will work across iPad 2s, iPhone 4s and Macs, which will give Skype a run for its money.

By itself, Apple TV is not the most dazzling piece of hardware, but the new iPad 2 makes video syncing seamless across the two devices. If you’re watching a video on your iPad 2 — and it “sees” your Apple TV via Wifi — you can click the AirPlay button to immediately play the same clip on your HDTV set. This tablet-to-TV communication opens up all kinds of possibilities for “second screen” experiences.

The $4.99 iMovie app features a pretty slick video editor with multitrack audio. You can share projects straight to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo… and in a first, to CNN iReport. You can also sync up to your Apple TV, or plug in a HDMI cable. It’s a video studio wrapped up in a single slick device. (And with the new GarageBand app, a recording studio, too.)

The base model prices out at the same $499, and it will ship on March 11th. Both AT&T and Verizon will be supported for the 3G models.

To me, this reinforces Apple’s leadership (90% market share, it says) in the exploding tablet market. It underlines the value of tablets as the “second screen,” brings video calling into the mainstream, will drive more video consumption, and will help fuel the “everyone is a producer” movement to create and share video.

While print publishers struggle in video, the TV business has a competitive advantage in this new video-forward tablet world. Sure, the Apple ecosystem is often restrictive, but TV producers and marketers will be unable to ignore the powerful distribution and “second screen” opportunities the iPad enables. Your thoughts?

For a full wrapup of the event, here’s Engadget’s live blog.