"We've been working on this product for a while and I just didn't want to miss today," he told the crowd.
As expected, Jobs unveiled Apple's next-generation tablet computer, the iPad 2. The latest iPad features a new design and a faster chip than the original model. It is also a third thinner than the original -- even thinner than the iPhone 4 -- and lighter, weighing in at 1.3 pounds.
The iPad 2 includes a front-facing camera for video chats and a rear-facing camera for taking pictures.
The new model will be available in the U.S. on March 11 and will cost the same as the previous iPad. Depending on storage space and 3G connectivity, it will cost $499-$829.
Today was Jobs' first public appearance in an official capacity since announcing in January that he was taking a medical leave from the company, marking the second time in the past few years the 55-year-old has taken leave for medical reasons.
In 2004, doctors successfully treated Jobs for a rare form of pancreatic cancer, and last year it was revealed that he had a liver transplant at a Memphis, Tenn., hospital.
For months, industry watchers have been buzzing about Apple's newest iPad, as well as the health of the CEO behind it.
iPad 2: Different Color, TV Hook-Ups
"While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we're launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again," Jobs said in a statement announced in the iPad2 release.
The battery life of the new iPad will also be the same as the original's -- about 10 hours when it's actively being used for surfing, reading or social networking and a month on standby.
The iPad 2 will come in black and white versions and supports both AT&T and Verizon connections.
To protect the new device, Apple also introduced a "Smart Cover" that attaches to the front with a self-aligning magnetic hinge. The cover is available in a range of colors ($39 for polyurethane and $69 for leather) and safeguards the iPad's screen without sacrificing style or adding weight.
The company also announced an HDMI video mirroring cable that lets people connect their iPads to high-definition televisions. With the $39 accessory, iPad owners can watch videos up to 1080p in resolution on a larger display screen.
On March 11, Apple will also release its newest operating system, iOS4.3, which includes a faster Safari Web browser, an updated AirPlay music-streaming feature and a new iTunes feature to play content from a home desktop over Wi-Fi.
For iPhone 4 owners, iOS4.3 includes a hotspot program to share a cellular data connection over Wi-Fi.
Apple also introduced two new content creating applications, iMovie and GarageBand, both of which cost $4.99.
With iMovie, iPad owners can shoot and edit video from their iPads and then post the productions to YouTube, Facebook and other sharing sites. For music-lovers who can't play instruments, GarageBand transforms the iPad into several touch instruments and a recording studio. Using multi-touch gestures, users can play the keyboard, guitar, drum and other instruments.
Apple Sells 15 Million iPads in 2010
While analysts said the new iPad is not a game-changing product, they said it's likely still enough to keep Apple ahead of its rivals.
"It will certainly keep Apple on top of the tablet pile, but it is not a quantum competition-killing leap," said Greg Harper, president of technology consulting firm HarperVision.
He said the faster, lighter, dual-camera iPad 2 and updated operating system are in line with what industry watchers were expecting.
The HDMI video mirroring cable will please those who plan to use the iPad for presentations, but he said it isn't especially innovative, as the feature already exists for the Mac Air. Although the March 11 launch is better than expected, he said, it's still disappointing that Apple is not taking pre-orders for the iPad 2.
"I think the moves followed pretty logically and in the tradition of other revisions to first-generation products that Apple has made," said Ross Rubin, a consumer technology analyst for research firm NPD group and ABCNews.com columnist.
The thinner design will help attract more customers and the reduction in weight (although subtle) will improve users' experiences holding the iPad for reading or movie-watching, he said.
Rubin also said that the iPad's new processor will let developers introduce more sophisticated and graphically-rich gaming and content-creation applications. As Apple demonstrated with its iMovie and GarageBand applications, the iPad 2 can handle multiple video streams and multiple audio tracks at once.
"[The processor] helps attract new kinds of apps to the platform. … It helps the transition of the product from a consumption device to a productivity device," he said.
As for the price, he said, the iPad will be just fine competing with tablets from rival premium brands.
Consumers Expected to Buy 34 Million iPads in 2011, Research Firm Projects
In announcing the highly-anticipated original iPad last January, Apple CEO called it a "truly magical device." At the time, the iPad was virtually the only tablet computer ready for market and it quickly captured the attention of consumers and developers alike.
Since the first iPads hit store shelves last April, the company has sold about 15 million of its touchscreen devices. About 60,000 applications for the iPad are now available in Apple's App store.
But the tablet market has changed considerably since the iPad first came on to the scene.This year, Motorola, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Research In Motion (which makes BlackBerrys) are all expected to unveil competitive tablets.
While Apple iPads captured about 85 percent of the tablet market in 2010, research firm eMarketer expects that number to drop to 78 percent in 2011 and 69 percent in 2012.
Of the 43.6 million tablets eMarketer projects that consumers will buy in 2011, it expects 34 million of them to be iPads.