CUPERTINO: Apple, the electronics giant, has unveiled an updated version of its iPad tablet, and is predicted to take around 80% of the US market this year.
Among the extra features offered by the iPad 2, available in America from March 11, is the ability to play videos directly on Apple TV, delivering a more integrated experience.
The device is also lighter, thinner and promises greater processing power, faster web browsing, video-conferencing tools, and HD video recording and playback.
A WiFi-only variant will cost $499 (€360; £306), while AT&T and Verizon Wireless are providing alternatives boasting wireless 3G capacity, with the 16-gigabyte option commanding $630.
Steve Jobs, Apple's ceo, revealed the iPad – which he described as its latest "blockbuster" – has sold 15m units, including 7m during the final quarter of 2010, and generated $9.5bn in nine months.
"We've never had a product that got off to that fast a start," he said, as reported by the AFP. "We have 90% of the market."
"Our competitors were just flummoxed … They went back to their drawing boards, tore up their designs."
More specifically, Jobs argued the "post-PC" age requires "global products" combining universal appeal, simplicity and advanced functionality.
"We stand a pretty good job of being competitive in that market," he said.
"It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. That it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us with the results."
"2010 turned out to be the year of the iPad … We think 2011 is clearly going to be the year of iPad 2."
Having previously left a big gap between introducing new products across the globe, the iPad 2 is hitting 26 countries in March.
"This thing's going to be everywhere in the month of March," said Jobs.
Research firm PRTM estimated 30 tablet products were on sale at the close of 2010, and 64 companies are either now selling or developing such appliances.
"Despite the launches of many competitive tablets, we believe Apple's product leadership, vertical integration and vast scale will cause it to win the largest share of the tablet market and the majority of the economic benefits," said Peter Misek, senior equities research analyst at Jefferies & Co.
Standard & Poor's raised annual iPad sales projections by 2m units, to 26m, according to analyst Clyde Montevirgen.
"None of the new features surprised us, but we still think the iPad 2 will compete very well against existing tablets," he said.
"We view favourably the March 11 shipment date, which should prevent a lull in demand due to the product transition; we also like that the price point has remained the same."
Forrester forecast that of the 24.1m slates sold in the US in 2011, Apple should be responsible for 20m, aided by 65,000 apps, perceived superior service and an "emotional connection".
"In a post-PC world, consumers have a more intimate relationship with their devices. They use them on the couch and in bed and not just at their desk," said analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.
"They show their devices to other people … Fostering that desire is a smart way to differentiate your piece of glass from other pieces of glass that perform essentially the same functions."
However, Eric Zeman, of technology title Information Week, suggested omitting 4G capabilities, near-field communications allowing for wireless payments, and more ports was a missed opportunity.
"The iPad 2 doesn't have the same instant, drool-inducing appeal that the original iPad had," he said.
"It's just a spec bump and not much more … Apple didn't deliver any stunning new features or capabilities."
Data sourced from AFP, Fortune, Forbes, Information Week, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff