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Apple's new iPads with modest upgrades fail to 'wow' analysts

"I've got to be honest and say, the only impressive thing was the 5K retina display on the iMac," said Gartner analyst Van Baker, who attended Apple's launch event at its headquarters.

Christina Farr | October 17, 2014 | Updated 11:52 IST
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 16, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

Apple's faster, slimmer iPads come with modest improvements, such as a fingerprint sensor, but some analysts say it offers few other features to wow consumers ahead of a holiday shopping season expected to be swamped by mobile devices.

At the tech giant's launch event on Thursday, Chief Executive Tim Cook called Apple's new line-up, which includes a new iMac computer with a "5K retina" or high-end display, the company's best ever. But analysts say Apple may struggle to arouse the same passion for its tablets as in past years among consumers faced with an abundance of hand-held, touch-screen devices.

"I've got to be honest and say, the only impressive thing was the 5K retina display on the iMac," said Gartner analyst Van Baker, who attended the show at the tech company's headquarters in Cupertino, California. "The other things we saw (included) just iterative improvements on the iPad."

Marketing chief Phil Schiller called the larger tablet the world's slimmest and described several new features such as an anti-reflective screen. He also confirmed the inclusion of the "Touch ID" sensor, already available on the latest iPhones.

Pre-orders for the larger iPad Air 2, priced starting US $499, start Friday with shipping beginning next week. The smaller iPad mini 3 will be about US $100 cheaper.

The new iMac, which sports Apple's new "Yosemite" operating system, will be sold for US $2,499.

Tablet sales are set to rise only 11 per cent in 2014, according to tech research firm Gartner, versus a 55 per cent surge in 2013, even as smartphone sales continue to soar and personal computer sales are waning.

DEFINING MOMENT

Tablet sales for Apple, which defined the category with the iPad just four years ago, have fallen for two straight quarters. Investors remain focused on the iPhone, the California-based tachnology major's main revenue generator, but a prolonged downturn in iPad sales would threaten about 15 per cent of the company's revenue.

The new iPads will go up against recently introduced tablets from Amazon.com and Google in coming months.

Apple also said it will launch its new electronic payments service ApplePay on Monday, after the iPhone maker signed up another 500 banks to support a feature that competes with eBay's PayPal and other online systems.

The Apple CEO said developers were beginning to design apps for its upcoming Watch.

Apple in September introduced its smartwatch, its first new device since the iPad in 2010. The company's entry into the rapidly expanding wearable technology arena will be available only from 2015, but Cook said software development kits for the device will be available from November.

Missing on Thursday was a larger, 12-inch-plus iPad, the subject of industry speculation ahead of the company's event.

"It is disappointing, particularly to enterprise buyers, that there wasn't a 12.9 inch iPad model," said Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder. "To return iPad to high growth, form factor innovation will be required. We'll have to wait until 2015 to see if Apple addresses this issue."

(Reuters)

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