Tablets

Apple sets iPad Pro launch as it seeks a more serious crowd

The 12.9-inch tablet will be available for online orders Wednesday and in retail stores later in the week. How will it fare in a sluggish tablet market?

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Apple is launching its big-screened iPad Pro in more than 40 countries this week.

CNET

Apple's new iPad Pro finally has an official launch date.

The tablet will go on sale Wednesday on Apple's website and will hit the shelves at Apple stores, authorized retailers and some wireless carriers later in the week in more than 40 countries, Apple said Monday.

Unveiled by Apple in early September, the iPad Pro sports a 12.9-inch screen, a big step up from the 9.7-inch display of the iPad Air. The 1.6-pound iPad Pro supports a stylus and a keyboard, which are sold separately.

Tablet sales have been in the doldrums for months on end as consumers have turned their attention and dollars toward large-screened smartphones. At the same time, Apple's share of the tablet market has been dwindling. Last quarter, iPad sales fell 20 percent from the same period a year earlier to 9.9 million units, the seventh quarter in a row that sales have fallen from the prior year and have failed to meet analyst estimates.

The iPad Pro is the company's attempt to try something new and appeal to an audience that wants to do more than watch videos and play games. Apple wants consumers and business users to see the iPad Pro, which features a A9X 64-bit processor, as an alternative to a high-powered laptop. The company is touting the tablet's ability to work with Adobe Systems' software lineup and other products for artists and creative professionals. The Pro's screen supports Apple's new split-view feature, which can display two apps side by side.

Apple also offers an Apple Pencil pressure-sensitive stylus, an accessory clearly geared toward artists and graphic designers who need to deftly control the images they draw on the screen. A new Smart Keyboard specifically made for the iPad Pro acts as both a cover and full-sized physical keyboard, transforming the tablet into a laptop.

Hybrids devices that convert between a tablet and laptop have been generating consumer interest, analysts says. Microsoft, for example, has found success with its Surface Pro tablet lineup , which offers an attachable keyboard.

Other tech players are also jumping into the big-screen tablet market to try to revive sales. Last month, Samsung unveiled images of its Galaxy View, a tablet with an 18.4-inch display. Unlike the iPad Pro, the Galaxy View is geared toward consumers who want to watch videos on a large-screened but portable device.

The iPad Pro is available in three variations. The 32-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only model sells for $799, while the 128GB Wi-Fi-only version sells for $949. The 128GB Wi-Fi + cellular model goes for $1,079. The keyboard costs $169 and the stylus costs $99. Your wait time for the tablet once you order is unknown at this point. Those who order online will receive an estimated shipping date.

Preorders for the iPad Pro are already listed at such retailers as Staples and MacMall. Staples currently shows the availability date as November 25, while MacMall says it will ship mid-November.