-- The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --
By Robert Cyran
NEW YORK (Reuters Breakingviews) – Apple showed just how cool it is about the corporate market. Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who is on an indefinite medical leave and missed the annual shareholders meeting last week, turned up on Wednesday to launch the new faster, thinner and lighter version of the iPad. He showcased the latest features for teachers, teenagers and geeks alike. Oddly missing was anything special to tempt business customers. Apple probably reckons they’ll come around anyway.
In a sense, this is long overdue payback for Apple. For more than 25 years, its computers have been popular among designers, educators and a certain cultish set of consumers. But massive purchases by companies of PCs made Windows the dominant standard, and nearly killed Apple in the 1990s.
The incredibly rapid adoption of Apple’s gadgets has flipped the equation. The company sold 16.2 million iPhones and 7.3 million iPads in the last quarter alone, turning Apple into the second biggest company in the United States by market value, at $325 billion.
The new device has plenty to excite Apple’s core constituency. There are applications for easy music mixing, a cable to plug the iPad into a TV and new video editing software. Or as Steve Jobs put it: “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields the results that makes our hearts sing.”
Pity the poor MBAs. There was nothing of improved security or a spreadsheet demo, either of which would have provided IT departments everywhere a handy fig-leaf to pick up some shiny new toys.
Jobs may have calculated that it just doesn’t matter. The suits have become smitten by Apple products and are forcing corporations to let them into the executive suite. Over 80 percent of the biggest U.S. companies are testing or using the tablets, according to Apple. Appealing to the consumer masses with the iPad 2 should only help accelerate the trend.
-- Apple unveiled its next generation iPad at an event in San Francisco on March 2. Steve Jobs, who is on indefinite medical leave, led the event.
-- The tablet device contains a dual-core processor, front and rear cameras, is 8.8 millimeters thick, and has models that work on both AT&T’s (T.N) and Verizon’s (VZ.N) networks. Apple also showed off a new magnetic cover that folds up to act as a stand for the device. The new tablet starts at $499, the same price as the previous version.
-- It ships on March 11 in the United States. Apple says it will ship in 26 countries by March 25.
(Editing by Jeffrey Goldfarb and Emily Plucinak)