Apple slates Nov. 11 for iPad Pro kickoff

Apple today announced that it will start selling the new iPad Pro on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

The date had been previously pegged by several Apple-centric blogs, which had cited unnamed sources.

Wednesday's sales will be online only. "[The iPad Pro] will arrive at Apple's retail stores, select carriers and Apple authorized resellers starting later this week," Apple said in a Monday statement. The "later this week" will likely be Friday, Nov. 13, as eagle-eyed bloggers last week spotted that date on the website of Sam's Club. The date has since been scrubbed from the big-box chain's site.

The 12.9-in. tablet -- a souped-up iPad Air -- will be sold in 48 markets, including the U.S., Canada, China, France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K.

Prices start at $799 for the entry-level 32GB iPad Pro, or 60% more than the bottom-end iPad Air 2. An iPad Pro with 128GB of space costs $949, while the similarly-configured model equipped to connect to a mobile data network runs $1,079.

The separate keyboard and stylus -- the latter dubbed "Apple Pencil" -- will be available for $169 and $99, respectively.

Apple unveiled the larger iPad two months ago during the press presentation that also introduced the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus smartphones, as well as a revamped Apple TV.

The iPad Pro is Apple's attempt to resurrect tablet growth, and a tacit acknowledgement -- or perhaps more accurately, a hope -- that there are customers who want a device that resembles Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, a tablet-keyboard hybrid that can do double duty as both a slate and a notebook.

iPad sales have been in the dumpster of late, with the number sold falling to 9.9 million in the September quarter, the fewest since the second quarter of 2011, when the second-generation iPad was launched. iPad unit sales were down 19.8% compared to the same period in 2014, and revenue was off 19.6%. The $4.3 billion that Apple booked on iPad sales was the smallest amount since the first quarter of 2011.

Apple tablet sales have contracted for seven straight quarters, nearly twice the length of the Mac's longest slump.

Although analysts weren't convinced that the iPad Pro will magically reverse the iPad's decline. And many questioned the mainstream thought that the tablet was Apple's entry into the enterprise, most viewed it as a credible expansion of the line that could appeal to creative professionals, very mobile workers and users in tightly-focused markets, including healthcare.

Interestingly, while Apple invited a Microsoft product manager on stage in September to demonstrate Office on the iPad Pro -- a move that stunned the event's audience into momentary silence -- the mobile application suite did not make the cut for today's press release, in which Apple instead let Adobe, FiftyThree and UMake trumpet their wares on the larger tablet.

iPad Pro owners will have to subscribe to Office 365 to create or edit documents (registration required) with Microsoft's apps.


Gregg Keizer

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