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Ready for Another Round of iPad Madness?

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 7, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Apple fans are counting down to Apple's Wednesday announcement, at which time the company is expected to finally reveal the newest member -- or members? -- of its tablet family.

Ready for Another Round of iPad Madness?

As is usually the case with an Apple show-and tell, rumors and speculation surround the event. A message in the company's official invitation describes "something you have to see. And touch," fueling rumors that the newest innovations to the tablet will be a high-definition display.

Even the product's name has been the subject of speculation. Although "iPad 3" may seem a logical choice, some reports peg it as "iPad HD." Whatever the label, if it has "iPad" anywhere in the title, it could face continued legal challenges in China.

Proview, the electronics maker that disputes Apple's right to name its product "iPad," remains fighting for the name in both the U.S. and China. Apple says it purchased the patent from Proview in 2009, but recently the Chinese company claimed it has full rights to the name and even tried to obtain an injunction on iPad sales in mainland China.

This week it was revealed that a Taiwan-based insurance company that partially finances Proview is seeking $8.6 million in debts from the electronics maker and is pursuing having the company liquidated.

Meanwhile, Apple is fighting Proview in court, but it hasn't indicated whether it plans to settle, given Proview's current financial state and the possibility of another iPad product hitting the market.

Apple didn't respond to our requests for comment.

iPads for Enterprise

Small-business workers are putting their tablets to work, according to a new study from The Business Journals. It found that iPad usage among businesses that employ 5 to 499 people almost quadrupled from a year ago, making it the fastest growing device in the industry.

In 2010, 9 percent of workers in the small-business market were using iPads, compared to 34 percent now. Even if they weren't users, 75 percent of the 1,400 small-business owners said they were "very or somewhat" familiar with the device.

"I think it's creating its own category as it goes along," Godfrey Phillips, vice president of research at The Business Journals, told MacNewsWorld. "When it was launched many people didn't know how it would fit between the iPhone and iMac, but it created its own space and continues to do it."

The study found that in the small-business setting, where flexibility, personalization and efficiency are competitive advantages, the portable gadget was increasingly valued.

"A lot of it has to do with its versatility, portability and size, and it also carries personal apps -- not to forget the coolness factor. Business owners need to be seen as up to date. You don't want to do business with a dinosaur," said Phillips.

The enterprise market isn't where Apple originally grew as a brand. But with personal tablets and smartphones becoming a more viable option for workers, Apple is dipping into markets it didn't always touch. When it reported its last quarterly earnings, the company highlighted instances where the iPad was used in enterprise, retail and educational settings.

"It was a niche brand that successfully went mass and became a cool workhorse brand. They are considered the leaders, and I really think they have an enormous opportunity -- maybe that is where they will go in the post-Steve Jobs era," said Phillips.

Job Creation

As the U.S. presidential race heats up, job creation is on every candidate's list of talking points. This week, Apple said it's doing its part to boost the country's economy by creating more than half a million jobs in the U.S.

The company directly employs 70,000 workers worldwide. About two-thirds of those, 47,000, are based in the U.S., with full-time workers in 50 states. In addition, the company said, it has created 304,000 jobs in industries such as shipping, manufacturing, sales and professional services.

Since Apple is not just counting its direct employees, but also including jobs it says it "supports," the metrics used for counting those jobs has led to some skepticism. Anytime a company releases such data, several issues arise, such as the source of the numbers, correlation versus causation, and the credit that should be given to Apple, as opposed to other companies, for creating those jobs, according to Nishith Prakash, assistant professor of Economics at the University of Connecticut.

"I'm very skeptical when it comes to job creation by Apple in other industries, just by looking at these numbers," Prakash told MacNewsWorld.

There is one area in which it's difficult to dispute Apple's first to the scene status, though. Besides the jobs it says it helped support in other areas, the company has put focus on the so-called app economy. Since the dawn of the iPhone in 2007 (the App Store arrived the following year), the company has added more than 210,000 U.S. jobs in the field of app development, according to Apple. The company claims that it's paid more than US$4 billion in royalties to those creating apps for Apple's online store, and that there are now 248,000 iOS developers in the U.S. That's an area Prakash says will continue to grow, both in and outside of the U.S.

"The app world will help job creation. For sure in the long run, technology will bridge the premium the app developer commands across different countries," said Prakash.

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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Which of these tech companies has the greatest *positive* impact on society?