iPad launch reveals APAC's importance to Apple

"Aggressive" pricing and availability of device in more Asia-Pacific markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong during initial launch show region's growing significance to Cupertino, say analysts.

Asia-Pacific region's growing importance to Apple was shown during the launch of its latest iPad device on Wednesday. This is because the iPad's pricing targets the region's cost-sensitive consumers, while the number of regional markets to receive the device during its initial launch has also doubled, analysts note.

Gerry Xu, PC market analyst at IMS Research, said the pricing of the new iPad is "aggressive". This is because even though the latest tablet has better hardware specifications than its predecessor, the iPad 2, the pricing of the entry-level device remains the same at US$499. The entry-level iPad 2 device will see its price slashed to US$399, too.

To him, this meant Apple had the region's cost-sensitive users in mind when it decided on the pricing model.

He also pointed out that the inclusion of more Asia-Pacific markets in the initial launch phase for the new iPad reflected the region's importance to Cupertino. Singapore and Hong Kong join Japan and Australia as the first Asian countries to receive shipment of the device when it is made available on Mar. 16.

Hong Kong and Singapore were not among the first markets to retail the device when the iPad 2 was first launched, he noted.

Jayesh Easwaramony, vice president of ICT practice for Asia-Pacific at Frost & Sullivan, added that the new iPad is catered to mobile Internet users with strong purchasing power, which would attract consumers in more developed markets of Asia-Pacific such as South Korea, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan.

iPad still leads tablet market
Since the first iPad was introduced in 2010, the market has been trying to play catch up with Apple and gain a slice of the tablet pie by launching a slew of rival devices. Tim Renowden, analyst for consumer IT at Ovum, noted that in certain aspects, the iPad is lacking compared with rival devices. Features such as additional connectivity via HDMI and USB ports and SD or micro-SD card slots, as well as better support for various media formats and sharing standards are areas that rivals have an edge over Apple's device, he noted.

"However, Apple is not a company that loads its products with extra features," the analyst said. "Its strategy is to focus on improving the core features of its devices, such as the screen."

This is why most users choose the iPad for its user-friendly software and the wide variety of apps available for the device, rather than the specifications of the hardware, Renowden noted.

Easwaramony pointed out that Apple currently rules the tablet category with about 70 percent of the global market share. With a better display and more processing power, the latest iteration of the iPad will "continue its dominance as the de facto tablet of choice", he stated.

One iPad 2 user was not swayed by the latest device, though.

Max Yam told ZDNet Asia that he would "definitely not" get the new iPad because the newly included features such as the improved camera and higher screen resolution are not important to him. He does not use the iPad as a camera and finds the screen resolution already much better than a normal monitor.

Instead, what he would like to see is a more lightweight device that comes with anti-scratch finishing for its screen. "Those [screen] protectors spoil the elegance of iPad," he explained.

Yam also pointed out that the promotion video for the new iPad focuses too much on "technology stuff" such as the retina display and pixel count for the screen, and "lacks the convincing elements" seen during the Steve Jobs era.

The former Apple CEO passed away last October. An analyst noted then that the company will continue the success of the company because of its talented executives and well-planned product roadmap.


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