Apple is scheduled to hold a highly-anticipated product launch on October 22, where it is expected to unveil new versions of its full-sized iPad and iPad Mini just before the critical year-end holiday shopping season.
The iPad 5 is expected to be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, while the iPad mini 2 is likely to include a high-resolution “retina” display, analysts says, with some speculating the latter could also include a fingerprint sensor. The color scheme of both iPads is anticipated to match the iPhone 5S with space gray, champagne gold, and silver. At the same event, Apple may also reveal a new MacBook Pro.
“It’s not a game changer, but a further upgrade, similar to the iPhone 5S. It’s honing the size and specs – we’re not going to see anything revolutionary, just an improvement on what we’ve seen in the past,” said Marc Einstein, industry principal, Consumer Telecommunications & Digital Media, Asia Pacific at Frost and Sullivan.
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The Cupertino-based company has the biggest share of the global tablet market, with 33 percent in the second quarter of 2013, according to IDC, followed by Samsung with 19 percent. All other players in the tablet segment, including ASUS, Lenovo and Acer, have a market share of less than 5 percent.
Alberto Moel, senior research analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein said while a thinner iPad would be attractive, it may not be attractive enough to trigger a replacement.
Meanwhile, an iPad mini with a “Retina” display – or a display that has high enough pixel density that the human eye is unable to notice pixilation – would bring the product in line with its competitors who already have high resolution screens, he said.
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With retail sales of tablets set to overtake those of laptops in 2013 to become the most popular portable computer among consumers, according to Euromonitor, Apple’s tablet business has become increasingly important. In the June quarter, iPad sales accounted for 18 percent of the company’s $35.3 billion revenue.
But Apple isn’t the only one stepping up its game in the space. On the same day as Apple’s product launch, Nokia is expected to debut a new tablet in Abu Dhabi and Microsoft will begin shipping its second-generation Surface tablets.
“This is an area that a lot of people are still watching, and both Nokia and Microsoft want to they make sure they get heard by consumers, and perhaps want their product to be compared with the iPad,” said Mellissa Chau, senior research manager at IDC Asia Pacific. “They want to show that they want to compete head-to-head.”
Analysts say neither Nokia nor Microsoft poses a threat to Apple’s iPad at the moment.
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“In terms of the number of apps that are available for Android and Apple devices, compared to Microsoft, it is night and day. Until that changes, I don’t think they have a big play in the consumer space,” Einstein said.
—By CNBC’s Ansuya Harjani; Follow her on Twitter: @Ansuya_H