"The momentum behind iPad has been incredible and has surprised virtually everyone," Cook said. "We sold more iPads in the fourth quarter of last year than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC line worldwide. We think this gives an indication of the potential for this product."
Apple has its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future.– Tim Cook, Apple
"Apple has its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future," Cook added.
Cook also compared the iPad favourably to competitor tablets running other operating systems, such as Android or BlackBerry, saying that they lacked the extensive ecosystem of the iTunes App Store.
"You won't find these incredible apps on any other tablet," Cook said. "In fact, in some estimations there were over 100 competitor tablets that came onto the market just last year; you won't find that great experience [there]."
Key upgrades to the hardware for the device include a high-definition 'Retina' display with a resolution of 2048-by-1536 pixels, quad-core graphics in a modified A5 chip called the A5X, and a 5-megapixel 1080p HD video capture capable camera on the rear of the tablet.
The device also supports 3G and 4G LTE connectivity, with quoted speeds dependant on network up to 73Mbps with LTE. It also supports DC HSDPA+ and HSPA+, for up to 42Mbps and 21Mbps respectively. The new iPad is compatible with both CDMA and GSM standards.
"Strategically, the most important updates were those made to its wireless technology, adding a strong array of mobile connectivity including HSPA+ for global markets and LTE, initially targeting the US market," Andy Castonguay, principal analyst at Informa, said in a statement.
The UK has no national LTE networks, in part due to repeated delays in the 4G auction process. The 4G auction is now set to take place later in 2012. Everything Everywhere is ready to switch on 4G services for a limited number of customers "before 2013" but the company still requires regulatory permission. An alternative 4G service called TD-LTE is now being offered on a wholesale basis by UK Broadband, and is expected to reach customers in Southwark from May.
The range of new iPads come in 16, 32 and 64GB variants and are due to go on sale in the UK on 16 March. The 16GB Wi-Fi only variant costs £399, 32GB is £479, and the 64GB, £569. The 4G versions cost an extra £80, making the 64GB version £649.
In addition to the updated hardware, Cook cited the Apple app ecosystem as a key factor in the iPhone and iPad's success, adding that more than 25 billion downloads have taken place on the App Store since launch. It is now home to more than 585,000 apps, 200,000 of which have been specially made for the iPad, he said.
The company said that its iCloud service — providing backups, photo syncing between devices and movie, TV and music downloads — has more than 100 million users. Cook said it was "a key part of the post-PC experience".
A minor update to the iOS operating system was also announced. iOS 5.1 updates core, Camera, Mail and Safari apps, which the company said have been optimised for the new display, as well as updated apps such as iMovie. The OS upgrade also introduces a new photo editor, iPhoto, and audio dication. The dictation option allows for speech-to-text input to make things like taking notes or sending an email easier.
Some analysts had expected a smaller-screen device along the lines of rival manufacturers' smaller 7-inch or 8.9-inch display devices, such as RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook or Samsung's Galaxy Tab.
"Apple's much hyped new third generation iPad is well positioned to maintain the company's dominant market leadership among tablet manufacturers," Castonguay said. "The latest or 'new' iPad maintains strong fidelity to its familiar form factor, despite market rumours about the potential introduction of smaller formats. After all, why change the format when it continues to be the most coveted tablet on the planet?"
Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews
delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's