iPad 2 set for quick global launch

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless
Only Apple could generate as much anticipation around a launch that everybody knew would hold no surprises. The iPad 2 duly made its debut with all the expected changes - thinner, lighter, two cameras, dual-core A5 processor and in the US, deals with both AT&T and Verizon (but no unified GSM/CDMA version). Perhaps the only unpredictable element of the launch was the appearance of ailing CEO Steve Jobs to head up the event, which prompted a standing ovation from the audience.
 
The other mild surprise was that the new device will ship very quickly in the US, on March 11, so clearly Apple has addressed the much reported production delays. The hasty release indicates that the firm will look to capitalize on the huge headstart enjoyed by the first iPad, before Android rivals like Motorola Xoom start to gain critical mass. For once, Apple is fighting on price, with the iPads coming in below Xoom - some had thought the firm might even reduce prices for the second generation to capitalize on that, but in fact it kept them the same, ranging from $499 for the Wi-Fi only, 16GBytes model to $829 for 64Gbytes and 3G/Wi-Fi. As with the iPhone, Apple remains firmly behind the curve on connectivity, with no firm plans for an LTE tablet for Verizon's new network, nor even support for HSPA+ at AT&T.
 
International launch will also be far faster than usually seen at Apple, with 26 countries getting the tablet on March 25, including Japan, several European markets and Australia. There will be black and white models. However, speculation that Apple would create a single iPad for all networks, using a GSM/CDMA chip such as Qualcomm's Gobi, proved false. Indeed, Apple took a step away from carrier independence. Even in Canada, where users could previously switch between the cellcos with a simple microSIM swap, there are now specific models tied to each of the three supporting operators. This shows Apple's new vulnerability in the face of Android rivalry - once famous for dictating onerous terms to cellcos, it is now making concessions to them, as seen last year when it backtracked on a plan to offer European iPads with remotely activated SIM cards, bypassing the operator.

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