New iPads aim to boost Apple in premium tablet market

SAN FRANCISCO- With the global tablet computer market showing signs of cooling, Apple’s expected unveiling of its new iPads Thursday looks to shore up its position at the high end.

The iPad event in a small auditorium on Apple’s campus in the Silicon Valley city of Cupertino comes with Google reportedly set to introduce a new Nexus tablet powered by Android software and manufactured by Taiwan’s HTC.

Google-backed Android software has the biggest share of the global tablet market due to the ubiquity of low-priced devices they power, according to Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa.

Apple tablets driven by the company’s iOS software have the second largest market share, with a small portion going to devices running on Microsoft’s mobile Windows operating system.

“Apple has a limited addressable market, because Apple products, in general, are not for everybody,” Kitagawa said of the company sticking with its formula of premium products at top-end prices.

“I think Apple is going to keep on with the premium segment; I don’t believe they are going to have a cheap iPad.”

The overall tablet market is moving toward low-cost devices, meaning that hardware makers unwilling to let go of premium pricing will tend to lose share, according to International Data Corporation (IDC) analyst Jitesh Ubrani.

Apple’s current line of iPads starts at around $400 for the “mini” tablet and $500 for the larger iPad Air in the US market, nearly twice the cost of many Android devices.

Analysts predicted the Apple event on Thursday to be low-key, showcasing iPads enhanced with features such as fingerprint reading and the Apple Pay mobile wallet which are also built into top-of-the-line iPhones.