Apple CEO Steve Jobs wasted no time using the new iOS 4.2 update, available for download Nov. 22, to launch yet another broadside at his competitors in the mobile space. The update introduces features such as multitasking, folders and Game Center to the iPad.
"Once again, the iPad with iOS 4.2 will define the target that other tablets will aspire to, but very few, if any, will ever be able to hit," Jobs wrote in a Nov. 22 statement posted on Apple's corporate Website.
Since Apple's Oct. 18 earnings call, during which he made a surprise appearance, Jobs has launched a series of blistering attacks against Google Android and Research In Motion, his company's two top competitors in the U.S. mobile space.
"We've now passed RIM, and I don't see them catching up with us in the immediate future," he told the assembled analysts and media during the call. "I think it's going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform. ... With 300,000 apps in Apple's App Store, RIM has a high mountain to climb."
Jobs then swiveled his cannons to bombard Google. "[Google CEO] Eric Schmidt pointed out that they're activating 200,000 [Android] units per day," he said. "By comparison, Apple has activated 270,000 units per day, on average."
The iPad represents a substantial-and growing-business for Apple. An October research note by Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan estimated the current iPad sales rate at 4.5 million units per quarter, and 2011 revenues for the device at around $9 billion. Apple's fiscal 2010 fourth quarter saw sales of 4.19 million iPads, a significant increase from the 3.27 million sold during the preceding period.
Research firm Strategy Analytics estimates the iPad's worldwide share of the tablet market at 95.5 percent. Despite that strength, however, Apple faces a rising tide of competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and RIM's PlayBook. Early 2011 will see the release of still more tablets running Android, Palm WebOS and Windows 7.
In an effort to head off that competition, and buttress Apple's mobile enterprise credentials, iOS 4.2 boasts features such as AirPrint, which allows wireless printing for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, in addition to stronger security and device-management capabilities.
On the consumer side, iOS 4.2 offers AirPlay, which allows an Apple mobile device to stream multimedia to an Apple TV or supported speakers. Game Center turns the various i-Devices into a multiplayer-centric gaming platform, matching players to new opponents and displaying top scores.
New rumors suggest Apple's work on a next-generation iPad is already well under way, with additions such as a front-facing camera and the ability to operate on both GSM- and CDMA-based networks.