This one seemed to catch us by surprise. Without the prerequisite rumor mill, and just months after the release of the iPad mini and iPad 4, Apple has announced yet another member of the family, one chock full of storage space.
At 128 gigabytes, this iPad can store hundreds of photos, hours of music and videos. That's twice the largest capacity of current iPads, 64 gigabytes. Like its predecessors the new iPad, with 9.7-inch Retina display, comes in Wi-Fi ($799) and Wi-Fi plus 4G LTE data-speed versions ($929.) That's $100 more than each version of the 64 GB iPad with Retina display.
Quickly Replacing Notebooks
The new iPad goes on sale in stores and online next Tuesday, in black or white.
The announcement comes ahead of the Mobile World Congress and a day before Research In Motion unveils its updated platform for smartphones and tablets, BlackBerry 10. Apple still rules the tablet market it created with the iPad, but faces an onslaught of challengers from Samsung, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others.
"This is aimed at business users of the iPad, not consumers who want to store more movies," consumer devices expert Avi Greengart of Current Analysis told us.
"It is not the most common use case today, but it is clear that the iPad is being used as a notebook replacement for a growing segment of the market." Doubling the storage capacity for productivity software users makes sense, he said. "Nobody thinks 128 GB is excessive on a laptop, even with the prevalence of cloud storage."
In its press release Tuesday announcing the new iPad, Apple noted its usefulness not only for storing books, TV shows, movies and apps, but also presentations and documents.
"iPad continues to have a significant impact on business, with virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 percent of the Global 500 currently deploying or testing iPad," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. "Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad."
Easy to Keep, Share Designs
Amy Bunszel, vice president of AutoCAD products for Autodesk, which allows iPad users to create designs, said "These files are often large and highly detailed, so having the thin and light iPad with its Multitouch display, integrated camera and all-day battery life, is a real advantage for iPad users to view, edit and share their AutoCAD data."
Jeff Orr, a mobile devices expert at ABI Research, told us high-storage devices make more sense for enterprise tablets than for those that access consumer apps.
"As technology continues to improve, we expect to see the current 8/16/32/64 GB choices migrate to 16/32/64/128 GB, though the timing is unclear based on current and projected market needs," Orr said.