With last month's iPhone update in the rearview mirror, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) is turning its attention to the iPad.
Folks "familiar with Apple's plans" are telling tech blog AllThingsD that the consumer tech giant will host a media event on Oct. 22 to unveil its next generation of tablets.
If the date sounds familiar, it should. That also happens to be the same day that Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT ) Surface 2 hits the market. Retail availability of Microsoft's fledgling tablet is a pretty big deal. Disappointing sales of the original Windows RT-fueled Surface forced Microsoft into a $900 million inventory charge. No one will be surprised if Microsoft falls short again this time around, shuttering the Windows RT operating system along the way.
Apple's choice may be coincidental, but it doesn't seem that way. Drawing media attention away from Microsoft's Surface 2's debut in the wild -- and possibly holding back pre-orders of Microsoft's updated gadget through the next two weeks as tablet shoppers see what Apple has to offer -- won't help Mr. Softy's chances.
Why should Apple care about tripping up Microsoft? Amazon.com will begin selling its new 7-inch Kindle HDX four days earlier. Isn't Kindle the bigger threat to Apple's empire? Isn't any Android-propelled device the real enemy over Windows RT or Windows 8?
Well, we can say that Microsoft made this personal. Have you seen the Surface ads attacking the iPad this summer?
Did you catch the ads where the Windows-based Lumia smartphone pokes fun at Apple and Samsung? If there's one thing that Microsoft learned from Apple's "I'm a Mac -- I'm a PC" ads several years ago, it's that you can succeed in an attack ad campaign if you're a hungry underdog. As big as Microsoft has been in the fading PC market, it's a fringe player in the booming mobile computing markets of smartphones and tablets.
However, you also need to know what you're aiming at. Apple was able to exploit consumer discontent with Windows Vista. Microsoft isn't going to gain a lot of traction bashing the iPad. Outside of the price -- something that has shifted market share dominance from iOS to Android over the past year -- the public is generally pleased with the iPad.
Yes, iPad revenue slumped 31% in Apple's latest quarter. Cheaper iPad Mini devices introduced late last year have driven average selling prices lower, but not low enough to wrestle back market share from Android. Apple needs Oct. 22 to help change that. Driving Microsoft off the road is merely a bonus.
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