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Meet the iPad 2 at Apple’s Launch Event

The time has come. The Apple Store (s aapl) is down, and Apple’s about to kick off its special event, which will almost certainly see the introduction of the iPad 2. We’ll be following the action and collecting coverage of the announcements from around the web and the event itself right here thanks to Om, so stay tuned. You can manually upload the page to see new info, or use an auto-reloading plugin like ReloadEvery for Firefox, Auto Refresh Plus for Chrome, or Auto Refresh for Safari.

9:52: Press are in their seats. The place is packed, Tim Cook is chatting with people, but no sign of Jobs. The event is about to get started.

9:57: Phil Schiller and Cook are near the stage, and will likely be on it, soon. Jonathan Ive is in the front row. Apple’s showing off its big iTunes win by playing lots of Beatles.

9:59: They’re about to begin, the announcer is requesting people to turn devices to silent mode. There’s a couch setup on stage.

10:02: Lights are going down in the auditorium. It’s show time. Standing ovation as Steve Jobs comes out on stage! The audience is literally going nuts.

10:04: Jobs didn’t want to miss today, he says. He’s talking about iBooks first. 100 million iBooks have been sold through the iBookstore. Random House is now part of that store, and there are now 2500 publishers distributing through it.

10:06: 200 million user accounts, with credit cards and 1-click purchasing. It’s the most anywhere on the web. Apple has paid 2 billion in App Store revenue to developers. The iPhone has 100 million shipped. Today, Apple’s here to talk about its third post-PC product, the iPad.

10:08: Jobs says people laughed when they called the iPad “magical,” but the price and nature of the device ended up making 2010 the year of the iPad. 15 million sold in 9 months, more than every PC tablet ever. $9.5 billion in 2010 revenues from iPad alone, and 90 percent market share.

10:10: App Store is 350,000 strong. 65,000 of which are for iPad. Jobs showing off some apps, CNN, The Daily, etc. These apps take advantage of the iPad’s “magical” UI. There’s that word again :)

10:12: Competitors launched with at most, 100 apps. No comparison. Jobs is now talking about how Apple Retail is a big part of the iPad’s success. Now they’re showing a video about “2010, the year of the iPad.” Schiller on video talking about how now one predicted this.

10:15: All Apple execs are talking about how amazing the iPad is in the video. There are also some example case studies, including education (iPad in classrooms), medical (doctors are using it to help them devote more time to patients and less to administrative tasks. In business, iPad lets people carry data around with them easily.

Comment from Kevin re: competitor’s app stores for tablets: “He’s being kind. He’s being kind. My post last week showed 16 apps.

10:18 Steve is back. He’s taling about how 2011 so far has been the year of the copycats, but nobody’s even close to the first iPad. Apple isn’t resting on its laurels. Here’s iPad 2.

10:19: iPad 2 is no minor improvement, according to Steve. It is dramatically faster with an all-new design. It has a dual-core A5 chip, which is about 2X faster than its predecessor, with the same power requirements as the A4.

10:21: 9x faster graphics, front and back-facing cameras. There’s a gyroscope in the tablet, too. It’s 1/3 thinner, very curved back, and only 8.8 mm thick. Thinner than even the iPhone 4. Jobs says “it feels totally different in the hands.” Lighter, too, at 1.3 lbs (compared to 1.5 for the last model).

10:22: Rumors were true, there’s a black and a white version. White version is shipping day one, says Jobs, which the audience greeted with laughter. 3G models work on AT&T and Verizon day one (GSM and CDMA). Same 10 hour battery life as before thanks to engineering improvements.

10:25: Pricing remains the same as the previous iPad. Starts at $499, goes up to $829. Jobs says “2011 will be the year of the iPad 2.” The new iPad ships March 11 in the U.S., two weeks later in 26 more countries.

10:27: New accessory cable available that does HDMI out. It works out-of-the-box with all apps! Definitely impressive. Supports 1080p output, rotation, the works and costs $39. That’s a huge win for Apple versus competitor offerings.

10:29: New case, which isn’t a case, it’s a cover. Smart cover, they’re calling it. Bends and folds to allow for different viewing angles when acting as a stand.

10:30: The new cover wakes the iPad when opened, and puts it to sleep when closed. It uses magnets to auto-align itself to the iPad. Very sleek, designed to add very little weight or size. Om says he loves the cover more than the device :) They’re now showing a video of how it works.

10:32: The magnets are actually in the iPad itself, the ones that make the cover auto-align. Comes in five polyurethane and five leather colors. PU version is $39, leather is $69. Now Scott Forstall is coming out to talk about iOS 4.3.

10:34: iOS 4.3 improvements are more than what we’ve already seen. Better Safari performance. iTunes home sharing means you can use AirPlay to stream from your computer to your iOS device. That’s awesome, I’ve wanted that for SO LONG. AirpLay also now works with apps and even websites.

10:36: Forstall is talking about iOS 4.3 things we already know about now. Personal hotspot allows wireless sharing from your iPhone 4 to up to 5 devices. Now he’s moving on to iPad 2 special software. Demoing Photo Booth for iPad.

10:38: Photo Booth looks cool. Nine live video streams at once being shown off, and you can add and manipulate effects using touch, then share videos with friends. Forstall is moving on to FaceTime for iPad. Works between iPads, with iPhone or iPod touch, or with Macs. You can flip between front and rear-cameras.

10:41: iOS 4.3 is coming on March 11, same day as iPad 2. Forstall says there are two more apps they’re going to show off today. One is iMovie for iPad (yay!), now that it has a camera.

10:43: Randy Ubillos, Apple’s chief architect of video applications is on stage to show off iMovie for iPad. It’s a universal app, too, so it’s replacing the iPhone only version. New home screen shows thumbnails of your films as movie posters.

10:45: You can record from within the app, or use your existing video from your library. Tapping a video clip brings up handles to let you select your timeline segment, and you can pinch zoom in to get finer control. Add and manage transitions, and check out and adjust the volume of your audio stream, too. The app features a library of sound clips for you to use in your movies.

10:47: The new iMovie lets you have up to three audio tracks beyond the original background audio track, provides additional themes, new titles and transitions. You can even play to AirPlay enabled devices over Wi-Fi or share to all kinds of sites, like Vimeo, YouTube, etc. Ubillos is now playing a demo movie.

10:50: iMovie is priced well ($4.99). iMovie demo is over, and now it’s time to take a look at Garage Band for iPad! Sounds like it has a lot in common with the desktop version, including a healthy loops library and 8-track recording and mixing. Xander Soren is on stage to demo.

10:52: Cool, Garage Band has touch instruments! Grand piano is being shown. Tap the keys like you would a real piano, there’s a button for sustain effects, which can be locked in. Soren is playing the piano now to show off how realistic it is.

10:54: The iPad’s accelerometer is used to determine how hard you hit the keys. And when you change the type of instrument, the look and features of the instrument change, too. Soren is showing how this works by switching from grand piano to classic rock organ.

10:56: He’s demoing how where you strike a key affects how it sounds. Now moving on to drums, tapping away at the screen. Smart instruments allow even people who suck at music (like me) to get in on the fun. You can set chords to autoplay and just strum away with the smart guitar. You “can’t play a bad note.”

11:01: There’s a whole lot of Garage Band demo going on. Showing off song sharing, via email or by sending to your iTunes library. Okay, that’s over with, and Steve is back on stage.

11:03: Garage Band is available for $4.99 on March 11. Steve is stressing that it’s powerful enough to do real work. That’s an amazing price for this kind of software. Jobs is repeating what’s been said about the iPad. Om notes that he’s walking quite slowly and looking seriously thin. Now they’re showing a video about the iPad featuring Jonny Ive talking about how amazingly awesome the iPad 2 is.

11:07: The video is now talking about how awesome the cover is. May be surprising, but Apple thinks the things it makes are awesome. Check out the video here:

11:11: Jobs is talking about how Apple has a holistic approach that marries tech and the liberal arts, humanity. He says competitors who talk about speed and specs are not getting it. Post-PC devices need to be easier and more intuitive. Software, hardware and applications are all intertwined. Apple things its on the right track with its approach. Steve asked all Apple staff to stand up, and thanks everyone for supporting the company.

11:16 There’s a Q&A and a hands-on area, so we’ll hopefully have some more for you soon after Om gets a chance to poke around. Thanks for sticking with us!

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