Live coverage of Apple’s iPad event starts 1PM Eastern

iLounge will be providing live coverage of Apple’s special media event, beginning today at 1:00 PM Eastern Time/10:00 AM Pacific Time. At the event, Apple is expected to announce its third-generation iPad, and possibly a third-generation Apple TV unit. You’ll be able to find all our updates on the main home page—so check back early and often!

Pre-Event Updates: An oft-reliable source for 9to5Mac confirms that “iPad Wi-Fi 4G” units are now beginning to show up in Apple’s inventory system in 16GB to 64GB capacities, alongside an updated version of the $39 Apple Digital AV Adapter.

Click through to the full version of this story for updates during the event.
Leading up to the event, Apple has set its standard area up at Yerba Buena, with a purple-lit stage and some iPads sitting in the shadows at a podium. Tim Cook is leading the presentation today, which starts just a couple of minutes early at 9:58AM—uncharacteristic of the Steve Jobs era. Cook discusses the “post-PC revolution,” which Apple is leading; the PC has been demoted from the center of one’s digital world to just another device, and where devices need to become easier to use, as iOS devices have. Seventy-six percent of Apple’s revenue now comes from these post-PC devices—the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

Apple has built the infrastructure to sell and educate the public about these devices—362 retail stores worldwide with over 110 million visitors in the fourth quarter of 2011. Cook shows the Amsterdam and Grand Central Station NYC stores, along with a video, showing the place and the crowds that have gathered. Over 315 million iOS devices were sold as of last year, with 62 million in the prior quarter alone. Siri was introduced in iOS last year with the iPhone 4S, “one of our favorite new features.” Siri has different voices and accents when speaking in different countries, obviously. Japan is being added to Siri. This is part of iOS 5.1, available today.

There are 585,000 apps currently in the App Store; the 25 billionth was downloaded in China. And Apple has introduced iCloud, synchronizing content across all Apple devices; there are 100 million iCloud users. Today, iTunes in the Cloud adds support for movies. Movies and TV shows will now support 1080p, and you’ll be able to redownload whatever you’ve purchased.

Third-Generation Apple TV. Adds 1080p support with a streamlined new user interface. More graphical, with icon-ish boxes for movies, TV shows, music, computers, settings, and other app-like features. Eddy Cue is on stage to demonstrate it. The new UI is a hybrid of the old Apple TV UI—the posters at the top of the screen—and widened app-style icons at the bottom. Not surprisingly, you can expect longer buffering times for 1080p videos, which require more bandwidth and space than the previously 720p max videos of earlier Apple TVs. $99, available next week, and can be ordered today.

Next-Generation iPad. Apple has sold a surprisingly high number of iPads. 15.4m in the last quarter alone. More iPads were sold than any PC manufacturer sold PCs in that quarter. Apple reaffirms that it was designed to be the best device for doing some of the things that users do most often. It is becoming a primary device for emailing, web surfing, and e-reading amongst the people who already own it. Gaming, as well, even when compared with dedicated game consoles and handhelds. Part of the reason is the library of 200,000+ custom iPad apps, which just can’t be found on competing tablets. In some cases, competing tablet apps are nothing more than blown-up phone apps created for other devices, not optimized. That’s not the case with the iPad.

Apple is the company, not surprisingly, that will come out with something “more amazing than the iPad 2.” “The new iPad.” Redefining the category Apple created. Phil Schiller’s out to do a demo. And it looks… exactly as we said in January. Yes, there’s a Retina Display. The iPad’s screen resolution is higher than Apple’s projector at the event, “a fun challenge,” so Apple needs to do zoom-ins on part of the display to show it off. 2048×1536, 3.1 million pixels, the most ever in a mobile device according to Apple. It has over a million more pixels than full 1080p (1920×1080) HDTVs, with a DPI of 264ppi, Retina Display caliber when held at a 15-inch distance. 44% better color saturation than before. And there’s an A5X quad-core processor inside. Apple calls the A5X twice as fast as a Tegra 3, and four times the performance—we’ll see what that really means.

The camera system has been improved, as well. There’s now a 5-MP backside illuminated sensor on the back with a 5-element lens, IR filter, and processing capabilities. Somewhere between the iPhone 4 and 4S. Auto-exposure and auto-focus integrated, plus face detection and image stabilization. It now records video in 1080p resolution. Oddly, they’re referring to it as an iSight camera.

Voice dictation has been added. The keyboard has grown a microphone button, a la the dictation feature of the iPhone 4S, alongside the space bar. Language support currently limited to US/UK/AUS English, French, German, and Japanese.

4G LTE added. The iPad 2 was capable of 3.1Mbps EV-DO, 7.2MBps HSPA (good luck getting that in most places in the US, though). New iPad does 21Mbps HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA at 42Mbps, LTE gets 73Mbps. That’s theoretically 10 times the speed over LTE. Theoretically. In the US, both AT&T and Verizon are getting 4G LTE support. (Expect limited bandwidth price bundles at $15 / $30 / $50 / $80 depending on carrier.) Rogers, Bell, and Telus added as Canadian LTE partners, plus other high-speed networks around the world. There will be different versions of the iPad for different LTE networks, but each will support 3G world service. The iPad will also be able to serve as a personal hotspot if the carrier supports it. Hardware now supports “the most bands ever” in a device, Apple claims.

Battery life. 10 hours of battery life, 9 for 4G. 9.4mm thick, 1.4lbs weight. $499 for 16GB model, black and white still available. Same $599 $699 for 32GB/64GB. Same $130 price bumps for 4G models. March 16 is the date. Pre-orders start today, with US, Canada, UK, France, Switzerland, Japan, and Germany as initial launch countries, plus several Asian countries.

All of the integrated apps have been updated and optimized. Same text upscaling and improvements seen with iPhone 4 Retina Display will take place with iPad, automatically. But improved apps will look better. Demo from Namco. Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy for iPad – a flight sim that has Ace/Air Combat-style graphics for planes and terrain, albeit without the ultra-slick texel-style geometry of the famous arcade series. Exclusive to iOS, Sky Gamblers will launch later in March.

Now Autodesk’s Chris Cheung, for SketchBook Ink. A new drawing app for the iPad focused on line art, which can be used with SketchBook Pro—resolution independent with the ability to output over 100MP images (hmm). Will be exclusive to iOS, available April.

Epic Games’ Mike Capps is out. Not surprisingly, these are the guys who are going to show off what the iPad is capable of. Infinity Blade: Dungeons is a 3/4 perspective Gauntlet-style adventure game. HDR graphics, lighting, and detail are all improved from what was seen on the iPhone 4S release of Infinity Blade 2. Gathering elements to actually craft the Infinity Blade sword and dungeons; more complex gameplay than before. Based on the Unreal Engine, using more memory and higher res than the PS3 or Xbox 360. “Coming soon.”

iWork updates. Free updates to Keynote, Pages, and Numbers. still $10 per app. GarageBand updated with Smart Strings, a Note editor, and iCloud sync/sharing modes. All available today. iMovie also updated to take advantage of the 1080p recording/editing of the new iPad, with outlining and storyboard modes, and new editing features. Dramatic improvements to the app really evolve it past the original version; free update if you have it already or $5 otherwise. Available today. New iLife app…

iPhoto for iOS. Advanced photo editing, plus effects, plus sharing between iOS devices. A superior browsing interface, plus multi-touch editing tools, brushes, and journaling (pages with highlighted, favorite/captioned images that receive greater prominence while others are downplayed).

Demonstration by Randy Ubillos, Apple’s key point person for photo and video apps. This is a reinvention of iPhoto, he says, mimicking the patent drawings that we recently saw showing photo collections on bookshelves. Use gestures to move through photos in an album, simple double-taps to compare similar photos—a lot is being handled automatically by the app. It can handle up to 19-Megapixel photos (high-end DSLRs am cry right now). Horizon-straightening, contrast adjustments, everything’s designed to be intuitive with finger swipes. iPhoto for iPad is really leveraging a huge number of tools we’ve seen in other great iOS photo editing apps, including specific area exposure and adjustments like Nik Software’s SnapSeed. Note that this isn’t an Aperture-style complete photo library management tool—it’s really focused heavily on editing—but it’s powerful. Works across iOS devices, too. $5, available today.

There’s now a demo video for the new iPad. They’ve referred to it as the “third-generation iPad,” but have deliberately opted away from calling it the “iPad 3,” “iPad 2S,” or “iPad HD.” iPad 2 continues as a $399 model with 16GB Wi-Fi, plus a $529 model with 16GB 3G. Super confusing, really. Get your iPad 2 or your… uh… new iPad. The better one. Black and white bodied versions of each will be available. And, says Tim, “We’re just getting started.” That’s it.

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