Apple unveiled its new iPad, but it's not called iPad 3 or iPad HD as widely speculated for weeks.

Rather it stuck with simply calling it the iPad, a move that speaks to the company's ambitions to have its blockbuster tablet supplant the ubiquitous personal computer.

In unveiling the upgraded iPad on Wednesday, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook repeated the theme that the difference between PCs and tablets would soon vanish, and that the iPad was the "poster child for the post-PC world."

Some analysts agreed.

"The iPad is encroaching more and more on the kinds of tasks that we've historically associated with PCs," said Ross Rubin, an analyst at the NPD Group.

Apple showed a number of new applications including sophisticated photo and video editing, and games featuring powerful graphics — that had been a mainstay of bulkier PCs.

Aligning the iPad more closely with the PC may also be a way to continue its world dominance of the tablet market. Apple's iPad accounts for 70 percent of the tablet market and has sold 55 million units in two years.

Cook, who strolled the stage in an untucked button-down shirt and a pair of jeans — perhaps an attempt to reflect the casual manner of his predecessor, Steve Jobs — showed he was not afraid to take a swipe at his competitors. Flashing up images of a Samsung Electronics tablet running Google Inc.-powered Android software, Cook said the software looked unimaginative and lackluster.

"It kind of looks like a blown-up smartphone app," Cook said, "because that's exactly what it is."

iPad competitors from Samsung, HTC Corp., LG and others have had trouble catching up to the iPad. The only device to win more than a sliver of the market has been Amazon's much cheaper $250 Kindle Fire, which accounted for 14 percent of tablets shipped during the fourth quarter.

But with an updated iPad, Apple is looking to widen the gap once again.

The company highlighted the iPad's new screen, which it called resolutionary because of its high-definition, photo and video-friendly display. The new device, which will start at $500, also carries a faster computer processor for powerful graphics, a 5-megapixel camera, and works with faster 4G wireless networks from Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc.

PC sales have been flat in recent years, while tablet sales have been growing rapidly. They are expected to double globally this year, to about 120 million from 60 million, according to research firm IHS ISuppli.

The iPad's new features were largely as rumored — although the new device did not include Siri, the iPhone's voice-controlled assistant, as many had guessed. The device does, however, offer a voice transcription feature, enabling users to dictate emails and the text of documents.

The lack of an explosive new feature — or a fancy new name — did not bother Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

Many Apple observers, including the technology media, "want Apple to invent something that makes cars fly and has mind control," she said, but for average consumers, "Apple has probably met and exceeded their expectations."

In October, Apple introduced its latest iPhone only to encounter a wave of criticism that the device was too similar to the previous model. But the iPhone 4S went on to become a huge hit, selling a record 37 million units in one quarter and quieting some of the naysayers.

Consumer excitement was evident when an Apple web page for early iPad orders experienced problems loading, making it difficult for some to buy the device, which will be available in stores on March 16.

Event the rollout had the air of rock concert as satellite trucks and news vans lined the street in front of the event center where Apple unveiled the device. Tourists hovered on the sidewalk, snapping photos of a massive, multicolored Apple banner.

The company also lowered the price of the existing iPad 2 model to $400, likely to compete with lower priced offerings from rivals.

Apple also announced a newer version of its Apple TV, the $99 set-top box that allows users to stream film and television shows. The newer Apple TV will offer much higher definition 1080p resolution — a feature absent in earlier versions.

david.sarno@latimes.com