There had been some doubt as to whether or not Steve Jobs would be at the Apple Press Conference today after taking a leave of absence for medical reasons. There was, however, absolutely no doubt at all as to what would be announced at the event regardless of whether Steve was there or not.

The iPad 2.

Speculation on Jobs' absence was put very quickly to rest as he came on stage... and confirmation was given on the new tablet. As the crowd rose in a standing ovation, Jobs said, "We've been working on this product for a while and I didn't want to miss today".

Specifications of the device were no surprise to the tech writers in the audience... the new dual-core A5 processor, iOS 4.3 at launch, front and rear facing cameras, Facetime support, and a design that is "dramatically thinner and lighter".

Improvements on the original iPad were made all around. The new iPad battery clocks in with a ten hour life in standard use and a reported month long standby. The new processor will make the iPad 2 twice as fast as its predecessor with graphics that are up to nine times faster.

Pricing was announced for the new tablet as well. The base model is 16GB and will cost $499, the 32GB will run $599, and the 64GB model will set you back $699. In addition, if you want to have 3G capability (no word on 4G at this time), there will be an additional $130 added to the price tag at purchase.

Models will be available for both the AT&T and Verizon networks.

As for the launch date, we should see the devices available at Apple Stores, retailers, AT&T, Verizon, and the Apple online store beginning March 11th.