New iPad debut finds domestic makers lagging

Kyodo

Apple Inc. on Friday launched a new version of its popular iPad multimedia tablet computer in Japan, where domestic manufacturers like Sony Corp. are struggling to attract customers amid the iPad’s dominance.

The third-generation iPad, released about 11 months after the iPad 2 hit the market, features a faster processor, a sharper high-resolution display, and voice dictation that recognizes English, French, German and Japanese.

About 450 people lined up at Apple’s flagship store in the upmarket Tokyo shopping district of Ginza for the launch of the iPad at 8 a.m., while over 70 people lined up at the Ginza shop of Softbank Mobile Corp.

“It’s overwhelmingly cool,” said 26-year-old company employee Takeru Suzuki after purchasing the product. “I can use many applications and link with my iPhone to share music,” he said.

Softbank held a commemorative event at the Ginza shop, where Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son introduced features of the new iPad, hailing upgraded picture quality, faster processing and longer battery life than the previous model.

“What is wonderful about Apple is its commitment to make a product which is easy to use for users,” Son told reporters after the event.

The new iPad comes in two models — a basic model with wireless Internet access as well as a model capable of next-generation 4G Long Term Evolution high-speed service with Wi-Fi, one of the key features of the new device.

But the new model will only be capable of 3G mobile data connection in Japan as Softbank Mobile, the sole Japanese carrier now marketing the iPad, does not currently offer the LTE service.

The Wi-Fi model is priced from ¥42,800, while the 3G model with Wi-Fi will be offered effectively free of charge for its 16-gigabyte version with a two-year contract, Softbank said.

The new iPad will be sold at Apple stores, branches of Softbank Mobile and some electronics retailers. The product was also to be released in the United States, Australia and France on Friday.

The launch of the new iPad comes at a time when Japanese electronics makers are lagging far behind in the global tablet computer race led by Apple, which had a share of 62 percent in 2011, according to U.S. research firm IHS iSuppli.