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iOS tablets: What will new iPads bring?

Posted: 16 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iPad? tablet? Android?

In 2004, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dismissed concerns that Windows PCs far outpaced Macs in market share. "Apple's market share is bigger than BMW's or Mercedes's or Porsche's in the automotive market," he said. "What's wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?"

His point was this: No one criticises Mercedes for choosing not to compete against Hyundai, so why should Apple be criticised for choosing not to release stripped-down Macs to compete against budget Windows OEMs? Current Apple CEO Tim Cook has sung much the same tune. "We're not in the junk business," Cook said last fall, shortly before the iPad Air's debut.

This aversion to "junk" is partly responsible for the falling iPad market share that has many analysts concerned. Cheap Android slates have exploded in popularity, expanding the overall tablet market and decreasing Apple's share. But most of this growth has occurred at the low end of the market, where OEMs sacrifice upfront profit in hopes of drawing new customers into extended ecosystems plays, such as device accessories or cloud services. Apple doesn't consider low-cost Android tablets to be true competitors to its highly polished, high-margin iPadsjust as Mercedes execs probably couldn't care less about sales of new Volkswagens.

But even if Apple isn't concerned about Android's popularity, iPads face other challenges. Until recently, Apple was losing tablet share merely because iPad sales weren't growing as fast as sales of other of tablets; that is, despite decreasing market share, iPad shipments were still improving. That's no longer the case. Last quarter, iPad revenue was down 8 per cent year-over-year.

Then again, aside from the cheapest devices, this sales slowdown has impacted the entire tablet industry, not just iPads. Sales are down partly because the PC market has stabilised. Over the last few years, many people bought tablets instead of new PCs not only because tablets can handle many PC tasks, but also because many old PCs continue to run very well. Just look at Windows XP's stubbornly high market sharemany people won't replace their PCs until the computers stop booting up.

PC sales are unlikely to rebound to peak levels, but it's clear millions of us still need mouse-and-keyboard functionality. Many people neglected PCs in order to buy new iPads, but that dynamic might have reversed.

Indeed, to many, iPad upgrades don't feel urgent because older devices continue to perform so well. Whereas many people buy new smartphones every couple years, iPads have settled into a more PC-like upgrade cadence. Between stronger PC sales and longer-than-expected iPad refresh cycles, Apple's opportunities for growth aren't as obvious as they once were. The company also faces increased pressure at the high end from tablets and 2-in-1s with new Intel processors.

Assuming Apple releases new iPads this Thursday, as expected, the issue won't be whether the new tablets will be improvedthey will be. Rather, the issue will be whether the new devices are improved enough to justify a purchase. Luckily for Apple, the new devices will likely boast substantial upgrades. iPad changes won't be as extreme as those introduced in the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, but, with a flurry of incremental upgrades, Apple's newest tablets will bring plenty to the table. What should you be excited about? Here are 13 of the most enticing new iPad features and products we expect Apple to announce this week.

A more powerful processor

Over the last few weeks, a series of purported images of new iPad components have leaked online. They indicate at least one upcoming iPad will feature an A8X processora beefed-up variant of the A8 chips Apple introduced with its recent iPhones.

"X" versions have typically boasted significantly better graphics performance and slightly higher clock speeds than Apple's mainstream chips. Apple has generally used "X" chips in iPads, though last year the company skipped the A7X, opting instead to use slightly different versions of its A7 processor in both the iPhone 5s and the iPad Air.

Apple is expected to debut the A8X in at least iPad Air 2. It's not clear if other models will also use the new chip. Some rumours claim Apple will release a new iPad Mini with a regular A8 chip like that in the iPhone 6, whereas other rumours claim Apple might not release a new Mini until sometime in 2015.

Regardless of which models receive the new chips, what does Apple plan to do with the extra power?

A8X processor for iPad

(Source: MacRumors)

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