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Apple Pushes iPad Watchers' Buttons

Apple Pushes iPad Watchers' Buttons

It is perhaps with great glee that Apple taunts its most ardent fans with tiny hints and clues about upcoming products embedded in the invitations it sends out to announce future show-and-tell sessions. Its latest invite, expected to herald the coming of iPad 3, was no different, stirring up speculation about the device's screen and what could be a significant change to its overall design.

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
02/29/12 5:00 AM PT

Apple sent out invites Tuesday for an event on March 7, at which time the company is expected to unveil a new product -- possibly the hotly anticipated third-generation iPad.

The event will be held at company favorite Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. The invite depicts what appears to be an iPad devoid of a home button, prompting speculation that the event will be used to announce a significantly redesigned iPad.

Apple has used the wording of previous invites to provide clues as to what to expect at its announcement. This time around, the invitation reads "We have something you really have to see. And touch." If an iPad 3 is the subject of the announcement, the "see" part of the invite could pertain to the product's display. There's been much talk that the next version of Apple's tablet will have a high-resolution Retina display, which would set it apart from the iPad 2 and other tablets on the market.

Fueled by news of the announcement, Apple's stock hit another all-time high on Tuesday, closing at US$535.31. It continued to rise in after-hours trading. Apple didn't respond to our requests for comment.

Slight Shareholder Shift in Power

Last week, Apple held its first annual meeting since the death of company cofounder Steve Jobs.

At the meeting, Apple bowed slightly to pressure from Calpers, the largest public pension fund in the U.S. Calpers has a US$1.4 billion stake in the company and pushed for more shareholder input for voting in the board of directors. As of next year's meeting, any director that doesn't have the majority support of the shareholders must resign. The switch was designed to make sure Apple complies with corporate governance standards.

Also at the meeting, CEO Tim Cook mentioned that the $100 billion in cash that the company is sitting on is "more than is needed to run the company," leading to speculation on whether the shareholders should expect pricey acquisitions or a dividend.

A newsworthy shake-up to the company probably isn't on the horizon, though, according to Kevin Dede, analyst and managing director at Brigantine Advisors.

"Apple is always snatching up things as it makes sense for them, such as Anobit, but nothing big that would take forever to integrate into Appel's culture," told MacNewsWorld.

Investors also shouldn't hold their breaths for a dividend, even though that's an option Apple promises it's exploring.

"A solid portion of the cash is overseas, so it wouldn't be repatriated anytime soon unless U.S. laws are altered, but I'm sure they consider exploring the dividend concept," said Dede.

Android Pressure Abroad

Apple scored a win in an appeals case versus the Motorola this week that allows the Cupertino company to continue selling its phones and tablets in Germany. However, a new report from IDC indicates that iPhones might face other challenges outside of the U.S. The report notes that the weakened economy in Europe has consumers searching for less premium-priced smartphones. Often, that means they're turning to Androids.

But just because Android is sometimes found in cheaper phones doesn't mean Apple's not reporting profits in its overseas markets.

"When Apple launched in China, the numbers they put up were not insignificant. If there are millions of people in China, many of whom are banging down walls and getting into riots to get the iPhone, handset makers know they need to take a look at their focus in developed markets and put some time and energy into developing a brand," Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst with IDC Mobile Devices Technology and Trends, told MacNewsWorld.

What many makers are doing then, Apple included, is offering lines slightly different than the U.S. that don't have all the features the iPhone 4S or its newer versions might, but can be offered at a reduced plan and price.

"What Apple more or less intends to do is attempt to offer a range of iPhones, both higher-end, like the 4S, as well as earlier models in developing markets," said Dede.

Though current research might pit Android ahead of Apple and other competitors in terms of sales, IDC predicts Apple will continue to have the kind of growth and momentum it enjoys in the U.S., even if companies that build and distribute Android phones have that success as well.

"There's only one Apple, but building handsets on Android are companies like Motorola, LG, Samsung and Sony, among many other assorted companies, including the newer handset wannabes, Huawei and ZTE. From a profits comparison, there's nothing to talk about. That's maybe a better metric in declaring a winner and a loser," said Dede.

Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at rachelle.dragani@newsroom.ectnews.com.

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