Impending iPad refresh viewed as Apple's most important since the first iPad
Apple this week is widely expected to introduce a redesigned fifth-generation iPad that will be thinner and lighter — Â and, in the eyes of one Wall Street analyst, the most important update to the full-size iPad since the first model was released in 2010.
Fifth-generation iPad mockup by Martin Hajek.
Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald said in a note to investors on Monday that he believes Apple's anticipated update to the 9.7-inch iPad could be the highlight of its Tuesday event. In his recent trips to Taiwan and China, he's been told the new iPad will be about 15 percent thinner and as much as 30 percent lighter than the current fourth-generation iPad.
The width of the new iPad is also expected to be reduced by as much as 10 percent, as leaked parts have suggested Apple will reduce the bezels on the side of the display when using the iPad in portrait mode. The changes will make the design of the full-size iPad akin to the iPad mini.
This iPad launch will be particularly important for Apple, according to White, because the company's tablet sales were down 27 percent year over year in the third quarter of fiscal 2013. That marks the first time in the history of the iPad that Apple saw a year over year decline.
He expects that iPad sales were also off about 21 percent during the just-concluded September quarter. But he has projected that the iPad will return to positive territory in the current holiday quarter, driven by the launch of a new fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini.
"Apple has a massive installed base of iPads, and we believe this will drive the biggest upgrade ever for the iPad franchise," White said. "In our view, this October launch will prove beneficial for Apple this holiday season."
As for the iPad mini, White expects a "modest" upgrade for the second-generation model. While recent rumors have suggested the device will pack a high-resolution Retina display, he's not entirely convinced, revealing that sources on his recent trip to Asia were "less conclusive" on the new iPad mini.
"For example, some of our contacts believe that Apple will unveil a new iPad mini this week but may wait to launch an iPad mini with Retina display until (the first quarter of calendar 2014)," White wrote. "If Apple unveils an iPad mini with Retina display this week, we would view this as an incremental surprise."
Apple is scheduled to hold a media event on Tuesday at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif. AppleInsider will be there for full, live coverage.