Apple Launches iPad2

To the usual fanfare, Apple has launched V2 of the iPad, which it is calling the iPad 2. The new version is faster, 33 per cent thinner, and “up to” 15 per cent lighter than the original iPad, while boasting the same 9.7-inch LCD screen.

iPad 2 features Apple’s new dual-core A5 processor, and includes a front-facing camera for video calls, and a rear-facing camera for taking photos. It is also available for the first time in white. Battery life is the same as for the original iPad at a quoted “up to 10 hours”. The tablet is available in black or white. Apple says that iPad 2 will run “almost all” of the over 350,000 apps available on the App Store, including the more than 65,000 native iPad apps.

Launching the new device, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: “With more than 15m iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices. While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again.”

iPad 2 with wi-fi will be available on 11 March in the US. Suggested retail prices for the wi-fi/wi-fi+3G models are $499/$629 (16GB); $599/$729 (32GB); $699/$829 (64GB). iPad 2 will be available elsewhere (namely: UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland on 25 March. Apple says it will be available in “many more countries around the world” in the coming months, and that further international availability and pricing will be announced at a later date.

Apple has also revealed that book publisher Random House has made its entire catalogue of 17,000 ebooks available on Apple’s iBookstore. The iBookstore, included in Apple’s free iBooks app, offers ebooks from more than 2,500 publishers in more than 20 categories.

Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of comment on Apple’s latest device. The analyst, Forrester, believes that the new iPad will continue to solidify Apple’s stranglehold on the tablet market, forecasting that iPad 2 will claim 80 per cent of the US tablet market this year. Of the more than 24m tablets that will be sold to US consumers in 2011, at least 20m will be iPads, Forrester predicts.

“In a post-PC world, consumers have a more intimate relationship with their devices,” says Forrester Research analyst, Sarah Rotman Epps. “They use them on the couch and in bed and not just at their desk. They show their devices to other people. Fostering that desire is a smart way to differentiate your piece of glass from other pieces of glass that perform essentially the same functions. The competing products we’ve seen announced so far from Motorola, RIM, HP, and others, while impressive, have fatally flawed price and distribution strategies… for now, Apple still defines the tablet market, with a product consumers will desire at a price that’s hard to beat.”

Andrew Bud, global chair of the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF), has also pitched in. He says: “The launch of the iPad 2 marks another milestone in the rapidly evolving market for mobile-connected devices. The number of new tablets being launched, the rapid sales of both the original iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, and the new revenue streams which the tablet platform is generating for publishing companies such as Pearson, all illustrate that consumers are taking to this new form factor, as the MEF predicted.

“More importantly, it also demonstrates how mobile-connected devices such as tablets are fast becoming the primary access point for content and entertainment. Whereas many predicted that the mobile internet would soon dance to the tune of the fixed-line internet ecosystem, the opposite is actually beginning to happen. The rise of the tablet is proving to be the turning point for consumers, as mobile becomes the preferred platform for using an ever-widening number of services.

“In the same way that the iPhone proved a catalyst for the growth of the smartphone market, this new iteration of the iPad will further force the pace of innovation, and stimulate market competition. The industry needs to rise vigorously to this challenge to ensure sufficient competition, both in consumer choice and in the business model of the ecosystem.”