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The iPad Air puts PCs on notice

By Brian S Hall / October 29, 2013

Last week’s special Apple event was high on anticipation, and with the introduction of two new iPads, the latest OS X operating system and a host of other new products, services and software, they didn’t disappoint. But really, the iPad Air probably deserved an event of its own.

Once derided as little more than a “consumption device,” the new flagship iPad sports 64-bit processing, the innovative M7 motion coprocessor and software optimized for productivity, creativity and all around entertainment. Although their MacBook updates make it clear they’re not trying to cannibalize their PC sales, this powerful tablet has the potential to become a family computer, gaming console, eReader and laptop replacement.

The future has arrived

In the span of just three years, Apple has sold 170 million iPads, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in the market.

Cumulative iPad Sales

As the New York Times noted, “about 120 million tablets were shipped in 2012, nearly seven times as many as in 2010, when the first Apple iPad launched.” Tech.pinions adds that tablet sales are likely to grow in nearly every region of the world.

Estimated tablet sales around the world

IDC predicts that sales of tablets will surpass PCs by the end of this year, with iPad maintaining its dominance over the market. Apps, software, collaboration, work, branding, shopping and play will all be impacted.

Leading the market

For its part, Apple continues to up-end the tablet industry. Each new iPad now comes standard with iWork—Apple’s productivity suite—and iLife—featuring GarageBand, iPhoto and iMovie. This is a winning strategy, and certain to have a major ripple effect across the computing industry. Much of the press after the event focused on what all the iPad freebies portend for Microsoft. The New York Times noted:

“At an event meant to feature its latest iPad tablet computing devices, Apple on Tuesday took aim at one of the biggest and seemingly unassailable businesses of its rival Microsoft, its Office software for tasks like word processing and spreadsheets.”

Fast Company mentioned:

“Apple also decided to make its iLife and iWork productivity suite free, another headache for Microsoft, which continues to generate significant revenues from its Office suite of products.”

And AllThingsD prophesied the end is nigh for traditional OS sales, saying:

“As of today, Microsoft now remains the last and only company that explicitly sells its operating system separately from a hardware product.”

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, stoked those fires by mocking competitors for “stretching” smartphone apps to tablet size (Google) or trying to contort a PC into a tablet (Microsoft). He even took a jab at netbooks and those unfortunate enough to have purchased one. While not untrue, such statements undermine the larger story, that being the menagerie of benefits iPad offers its hundreds of millions of users.

Making users more powerful

For less than $500, anyone can have the new iPad Air, a highly intuitive, 64-bit mobile computing device with instant access to 475,000 apps and millions of books, songs and movies. Combine that with iCloud integration, giving users the ability to share content across iOS and Mac OS X devices, and the possibilities are endless.

Where iPhone profoundly changed Apple’s fortunes, iPad will forever change personal computing. With the iPad Air, nearly anyone, regardless of their technical prowess, can create a spreadsheet, mix audio, craft a presentation for work, edit a video, write and format a document, video chat and oh so much more.

As Apple continues to make the iPad lighter, thinner, faster, longer lasting and more functional, it dramatically expands the creative and collaborative possibilities for users, developers, brands and businesses. Apple even bills the iPad Air as “Desktop-class architecture. No desktop required.” In just a few short years, iPad has had the same impact on business, education, retail and gaming as the first computers. If Apple and fellow tablet manufacturers stay on this trajectory, our grandkids may have an entirely different definition of PCs.