NEW YORK — Apple CEO Tim Cook believes Santa's sleigh will be loaded with iPads this Christmas, but a variety of competing tablets are sure to be along for the ride, too.
Apple's iPad Air, a thinner, lighter and faster-running version of its previous large tablet computers, goes on sale Friday with a starting price of $499. The company also unveiled an updated version of its iPad Mini recently. It goes on sale sometime in November.
Apple is expecting strong sales of both models —so much so that Cook told analysts during the company's most recent earnings conference call that "this is going to be an iPad Christmas" as he predicted year-over-year growth.
But this year the iPad faces its stiffest holiday season competition since its 2010 introduction. While Apple still holds the largest chunk of the growing tablet market, the iPad has been losing market share to quality —and often cheaper— alternatives that run Google's Android operating system.
According to data released by market research firm IDC on Wednesday, iPads accounted for about 30 percent of the tablets shipped during the July-September quarter, down from about 40 percent in the same period a year ago.