Fastest ever roll-out for the new iPad
Unfazed by the legal dispute over the iPad trademark, Apple will release the third generation of its popular media tablet in Hong Kong and nine other markets next week.
Macau is among the next batch of 25 markets slated to receive the updated iPad by the end of this month, in what Apple management described yesterday as the company's fastest new product roll-out.
The new media tablet is simply called 'iPad', eliminating any numerical or physical brand distinction. It will cost the same as the iPad 2 when it was released last year, with prices starting at HK$3,888.
Pre-orders for the latest iPad, which started early yesterday morning at Apple's online store in Hong Kong, were quickly filled up.
The device essentially retains the same design, size, weight and robust battery life of the iPad 2. But it prominently features a new 9.7-inch display with sharper and richer image resolution than that offered by a typical high-definition television, a five megapixel camera, full HD video recording and voice dictation.
It also represents Apple's first product to support high-speed 4G mobile networks based on the technology called long term evolution (LTE), which offers theoretical internet download speeds of up to 73 megabits per second.
'Everyone's been wondering who will come out with a product that is more amazing than the iPad 2. Stop wondering - we are,' Apple chief executive Tim Cook said at yesterday's launch.
Cook said the updated product would 'redefine the category that Apple created with the original iPad'.
Support for 4G LTE and the early release of the new iPad in Hong Kong are expected to initially benefit CSL, the city's biggest wireless network operator. The company, a unit of Australian carrier Telstra, launched Asia's first commercial 4G LTE network in November 2010.
'The new iPad reconfirms 4G LTE as the dominant trend in the mobile market,' said Mark Liversidge, the chief marketing officer at CSL.
'This is what CSL anticipated and prompted the company's launch of its 4G LTE network two years ago.'
Macquarie Securities analyst Lisa Soh, however, said the LTE-compatibility of the new iPad also justified the 4G network investments being made by other local 3G operators.
SmarTone last month announced it was set to launch a 4G LTE network with better in-building coverage this year. Hutchison Telecommunications and HKT, through their joint venture Genius Brand, have also committed to launch their 4G LTE service this year.
'All of these operators have said they would launch LTE services when more devices become available,' Soh said. 'The new iPad looks to be the more iconic of these devices.'
Market research firm IHS iSuppli estimates demand for the new iPad would outstrip supply for several months. That is expected to entice more consumers to buy the previous iPad model. From yesterday, Apple cut the price of the 16GB iPad 2 with Wi-fi connection to HK$3,088. The 16GB with both Wi-fi and 3G connection now sells for HK$4,088.
Tim Bajarin, the president of technology analyst firm Creative Strategies, said: 'With a lower priced iPad 2, we estimate Apple to sell between 50 million and 55 million iPads this year.'
Mike McGuire, a vice-president at market research company Gartner, said Apple's legal battle over the iPad trademark 'is not a major concern', based on its efforts to expand its lead in the global market for media tablets.
The number of iPads sold globally since the first model was released in the second quarter of 2010 up to the fourth quarter last year