Despite the rise of the phablet and its friends, the battle of the very expensive tablets is very much upon us as Apple announced an $800, 128GB version of its iPad on Tuesday morning — less than two weeks before its enemies at Microsoft will launch a $900, 128GB tablet, the Surface Pro.
With an unusual lack of song and dance, Apple has debuted the biggest iPad yet, which features Retina Display and retails for $799 — just $200 less than a Macbook Air laptop... and that's just for the WiFi-only model. The 128GB iPad with both WiFi and LTE cell service will cost a whopping $929, a grand that makes even less sense given the state of tablet sales. Evidence has been increasing that even as tablets and tablet-like devices become more popular (Apple sold 22.9 million iPads in the fourth quarter of 2012), American consumers want smaller, more affordable gadgets: Sales have been soaring for the new preponderance of smaller (and well reviewed) tablets, including the iPad Mini (which Apple's earnings report did not break down but has been selling out across the country) and the undisputed rise of so-called "phablets," which seek to combine the power of a tablet with the relative size of a cellphone.
Is there really a market for this super-iPad? If there is, Apple sure doesn't want Microsoft to own it. The new iPad's timing — and unrepentant pricing — might have something to do with Microsoft's upcoming Surface Pro model. The more powerful, Windows 8-compatible tablet — many expect it to sell better than the Surface RT because, well, it works better — comes out February 9, which just so happens to fall a few days after Apple's bigger, better, actually less expensive iPad hits stores on February 5. Coincidence? Definitely not.