iPad is Wearing Thin

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor, & Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — October 22, 2013

All eyes were on Apple today, as the company announced its iPad Air, the “dramatically thinner, lighter and more powerful iPad.” Held in San Francisco, the event was Apple’s second huge media blitz in just over a month. (Apple unveiled the iPhone 5S smartphone, featuring a fingerprint sensor, in mid-September.)

Meanwhile, yesterday, over in Abu Dhabi, Nokia showed off a series of six new Windows devices including two 6-inch phablets and a 4G 10-inch tablet. Did anyone notice? Does even Microsoft care about the tablet which runs on Windows RT? The tech giant is set to take over the Finnish company’s mobile operations, after developing a relationship over the last three years.

Why is Nokia unveiling its next generation of innovation all of a sudden? “Smarter camera, more social experiences. The differences will be very clear to you. It will be crystal clear,” said Stephen Elop during his presentation. The former chief executive for Nokia has returned home to Microsoft, spurring rumors that he may be next in line after Steve Ballmer. But, for now, it all remains a question mark.

For Apple, the question is, what is the next big thing? Certainly the original iPad which debuted in 2010 was a game changer. However recent iPad sales were down year over year, likely due to anticipation of a new device that can change the world, not just offer a minor refresh.

“We’re not slowing down on innovation,” said Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, in his usual quiet way. He cited the new smartphones, the new operating system, and the products from today. He also took a swipe at Microsoft, calling the competition "confused.”

The Rise of Tablets
In mid-September, IDC raised its worldwide tablet forecast. In a statement the research firm projected strong expectations for the fourth quarter and increased its forecast for the worldwide tablet market to by about 10 million units to 117.1.

The latest update of the Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker was also revised to reflect IDC’s 2013 forecast number from 142.8 million units to 165.9 million units, with a catapult to 261.4 million units by 2016.

Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices at IDC stated, "Apple leads the market with its iPad, and we expect its dominance to continue in the second half of the year. Still, we believe there is room in the market for others to find success, and new Android- and Windows-based products shipping in the coming months will give consumers plenty of buying options during the holiday season."

So, will Nokia's new RT tablet matter?

"Tablets running Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 and RT operating systems, including the company's own Surface tablets, will add some momentum," said Jennifer Song, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Trackers. "However, we expect shipments to remain low in the fourth quarter as high prices and consumer confusion around these devices will limit their appeal. Also, in the second half of the year Android should benefit from the success of the Nexus 7 and Amazon's launch of new Kindle Fires."

Air Specs
One of the taglines of the new tablet is: “Sometimes the best design is the one you hardly notice.” Perhaps the next device that debuts will literally be invisible but until then, the new iPad Air is 7.5 millimeters thin and weighs only one pound —that’s 28% lighter and 20% thinner.

In talking about the Retina display, Apple cites the thinner bezels as a “subtle change with a dramatic difference.” Like magic, the iPad Air supposedly recognizes if your thumb is just resting on the display while holding it or if you mean to interact.

It has a new A7 chip that brings 64-bit desktop-class architecture to the device and makes it 2x faster than the prior gen. The M7 motion coprocessor offloads work from the A7 “gathering motion information” so apps can adapt their functions.  Being able to decide which functions go to which chip adds to the battery life.

Two antennas support MIMO for up to twice the 802.11n Wi-Fi performance. It also has more LTE bans to support more global networks. Other stats: 5-megapixel camera, FacTime HD camera, dual microphones all running on iOS7 of course. It is Mercury, Arsenic, BFR and PVC free and has a recyclable aluminum enclosure. 

Apple also launch it's next gen iPad mini with Retina display, bringing all the pixels from the 9.7-inch iPad to its 7.9-inch screen.

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