Technology Review: The new iPad Air

iPadairThe iPad Air represents Apple’s best and brightest slate: a monster future-proof 64-bit processor, a beautiful 2048-by-1536 Retina display, an aluminum shell that’s 20% thinner than its predecessor with a 43% narrower bezel when held in portrait mode. It’s lost roughly 33% of the prior model’s weight, dropping from 1.4 pounds to just 1 pound, and it’s loaded with a variety of now free productivity apps, from Apple’s Pages to Numbers to Keynote — the entire iWork suite — as well as iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand.

When the iPad Air goes on sale Nov. 1, the tablet will be available for purchase in 42 countries and territories, including China — a first for the iPad. Apple’s third-generation iPad debuted in just 10 markets on March 16, 2012. The next release eight months later, which included the iPad Mini, hit 34 markets on the first day.

Very few companies can pull off Apple’s same-day international extravaganzas. (Samsung Electronics is also in that elite group.) Getting manufacturers to pump out enough inventory in time to fill store shelves around the world is a major hurdle. Unleashing marketing campaigns tailored to each market is another.

Not even the iPhone, Apple’s biggest product category by revenue, had a more Global Awareness the iPad Air will. The iPhone 5s and 5c hit 11 countries or regions on Sept. 20. That’s partly because in order to release a phone, Apple has to work with mobile carriers and submit to more stringent regulatory testing. (Note that only the Wi-Fi version of the new iPad will be available in China at the beginning of next month.)

Apple’s expanded debut “shows they’re trying to expand the brand presence and drive deeper penetration in international markets,” said Andy Hargreaves, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

However, such a widely distributed release for the iPad Air could be difficult to pull off even for Apple, said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Ovum.”It’s going to make it really tough to meet demand,” Dawson wrote in an e-mail. “We’re going to see what we saw with the iPhone 5s all over again, with people waiting in lines, long shipping times and so on. As a result, Apple is going to see fewer sales than it would have if it had launched the devices in a more staggered fashion.”

By Luis Valencia