Apple unveiled its thinner, lighter, and faster tablet device less than a year after the first generation and will start shipping it nine days after the announcement while competitors struggle to get models to market.
Makers of iPad competitors should be concerned. As expected, Apple debuted a second-generation iPad Wednesday. While it looks mostly like a spec bump compared to the original iPad, the quick launch date and low price will hurt the iPad's competitors.
The iPad 2 has a new A5 dual-core 1GHz processor, two cameras for FaceTime chatting, beefed up graphics support and a gyroscope for better gaming support. The screen remains unchanged, as do the storage choices (16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB). The iPad 2 comes in three wireless varieties, including one with just Wi-Fi, one for AT&T's 3G network, and one for Verizon Wireless' 3G network. (No 4G support here.)
The price points remain unchanged, too. The iPad 2 starts at $499 for the 16-GB Wi-Fi version and ranges up to the same $829 price tag for the 64-GB + 3G version. It goes on sale Friday, March 11, starting at 5PM.
While the specs and capabilities of the new iPad 2 may or may not impress you, the pricing and availability should. Apple is shipping a second-generation tablet product less than a year after introducing the first one. Samsung and Motorola are the only other device makers that have shipped legit tablets. The Galaxy Tab went on sale during the fourth quarter of 2010, and the Motorola Xoom went on sale February 24.
RIM and HP have both announced major tablet products, but have yet to ship them. RIM first announced the PlayBook in September 2010. It's been nearly six months. RIM would only confirm to me that the PlayBook will ship by the end of April -- which could end up being more than 6 weeks after the iPad 2 goes on sale. How much will it cost? RIM says "around $500" (for a device that won't have any sort of native email support without a BlackBerry tethered to it). Apple is shipping the iPad 2 just 9 day after announcing it.
HP's webOS-based tablet won't hit the street until later this year, well after the iPad does. HP hasn't indicated what its device will cost, but the iPad 2's $499 starting point puts a lot of pressure on HP, RIM, Motorola, Samsung, and others.
Oh, did we mention that Apple has discounted the original iPad by $100 across the entire line. The original iPad 16 GB now costs only $399. There's no way the tablet competition can match that price point. Even the subsidized version of the Motorola Xoom, for example, sells for $599.99 with a contract, it's $799.99 without a contract.
With more Android tablets on the horizon from the likes of Samsung, HTC, and LG, the Honeycomb devices will be competing against one another as well as Apple, RIM, and HP. If tablet makers can't compete with Apple on price, they will have to compete on features. Based on the Honeycomb tablets I've seen so far, none of them have specs that drastically outshine that of the iPad 2.
And then there's the 65,000 available iPad apps to consider.
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