Apple brings new iPad to mainland
Apple is poised to tighten its grip on the mainland's fast-growing media tablet market, with the domestic release of the company's third-generation iPad next Friday.
The announcement from Apple late on Tuesday followed the end of its long and bitter legal battle over the use of the iPad name on the mainland. Apple paid a US$60 million court-mediated settlement last month to Proview Technology (Shenzhen), which has transferred to the California-based firm its two mainland iPad trademarks.
Apple, the world's largest technology company, first rolled out the new iPad model in Hong Kong, the United States and eight other markets early in March. Analysts expected the wide domestic release of the third-generation iPad to help spur a second-half surge in media tablet sales across the mainland, where the Apple device has a commanding lead over other brands' products.
Technology research firm IDC estimated that Apple's iPad had a 65 per cent share of the mainland's media tablet market in the first quarter this year. The other prominent media tablet players in the world's second-biggest economy that quarter were Lenovo, with a 17 per cent share; Samsung Electronics, with 4 per cent; and 3 per cent each for Huawei Technologies and ZTE.
'Apple has an almost insurmountable lead on the mainland because owning its products has become a status symbol there,' Bryan Ma, IDC's associate vice-president for Asia-Pacific client devices research, said yesterday. 'We expect Apple to continue to dominate the mainland's media tablet space.'
IDC forecast the mainland's total volume of media tablet sales to grow nearly 30 per cent to 8 million units this year, up from 6.2 million units last year. Ma said those numbers excluded the media tablets sold in the grey market, where many iPads bought by mainland travellers in Hong Kong and other markets can be found. But Bernstein Research said total domestic media tablet sales this year could reach 10.5 million units.
'The high-end brands and those in the low end of that market will see share gains,' said Bernstein Research senior analyst Alberto Moel, who estimated that Apple's iPad has a strong 51 per cent share. 'I expect some 'panic discounting' by other players in the market because of the new iPad model release,' Moel said. 'Since the iPad sells at much higher price points, it is not a real threat to most mainland brands.'
Apple said mainland retail prices for the third-generation iPad, which features the best high-definition display of any media tablet in the global market, will start from US$499.
Those for the older iPad 2 model will start at US$399.
The new iPad model will be available through the mainland's online Apple Store, select authorised resellers, and by reservation from the company's five branded local retail stores, two in Beijing and three in Shanghai. Last October, Apple chief executive Tim Cook declared China - comprising the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan - Apple's second-largest market after the United States, with a record US$13 billion in sales in the last fiscal year to September 24.