Apple's public, free release of iOS 4.3 yesterday adds and improves several features. You just plug your iDevice into your computer, boot up iTunes and hit 'Update', and be patient - after the download and install, the iDevice has to restart.

There are a few new features - Home Sharing has been available for a while but it has been streamlined in 4.3; now you can now play your entire iTunes library from anywhere in the house (or workplace) over Wi-Fi from a Mac (or even a PC) to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, without having to download or sync. All you do is turn Home Sharing on.

AirPlay now streams video from the Photos app - shoot a home video and instantly share it with everyone in the room on your HDTV, via Apple TV, or play a slideshow with all the themes available. AirPlay is also available to developers, so their AirPlay-enabled apps and websites can get the big-screen treatment, too. Game, anyone?

The new Nitro JavaScript engine powers the latest iDevice (4.3) Safari, so it's up to twice as fast, according to Apple.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is Personal Hotspot for iPhone 4. This takes tethering - in which you can use your iPhone 4 as a modem for your computer - a stage further. Enabling Personal Hotspot on your iPhone 4 (Settings>General?Network) lets you share your connection with up to three devices on Wi-Fi, or one via USB or one via Bluetooth (these last two are what tethering offered). The connection is password protected and secure. iPhone detects when your Personal Hotspot is no longer in use and turns it off to save battery life.

But an early look at the iOS 4.3 update has also confirmed that the next iPhone, iPhone 5, will be getting the same A5 chip as the iPad 2, which is about to go on sale in the US (and here in a couple of weeks). Both the tablet and the future iPhone, codenamed the N94AP, are listed as using the same S5L8940 processor. Reading the code's entrails doesn't confirm the clock speed of an iPhone 5 A5, but Apple runs a slightly under-clocked version of the A4 in the iPhone 4.

Other smartphones have taken healthy percentages of the marketplace, but to my mind, although there were plenty of smartphones before Apple's iPhone, there wasn't really a marketplace until Apple. (So there.)

Anyway, the new processor would give the iPhone its first dual-core processor and should at least make it competitive with a slew of Android phones, including the Motorola Atrix and LG Optimus 3D. It would guarantee support for 1080p video output, broader multitasking and other tasks that are difficult or impossible with current single-core processors.

The A5 consumes roughly as much power as the A4 and should have PowerVR SGX543 video. It's not yet known if it's running the contemporary ARM Cortex-A9 architecture used in the NVIDIA Tegra 2 or TI OMAP 4430, or if it will just be using dual Cortex-A8 parts. It's constructed on a 40 nanometer process.

Electronista has more info about all that.

Talking about the 'industry' other than Apple, I don't know whether the rest of it is still gathering breath before its onslaught in the tablet stakes, or just never going to get there.

Proponents of other models like to say (as they do about all things Apple) that the alternatives are better, cheaper, more advanced and more revolutionary. From where I'm sitting,only one of those rings true ... and not even always.

That's 'cheaper'.

A just-published Changewave Research survey focusing on just the next 90 days showed that 5% of respondents say they'll be purchasing a tablet within that time frame.

And 82% of those future tablet buyers said they'll be purchasing an iPad.

The Motorola Xoom had 4% of fans - it wasn't even released at the time of the survey, so there's obviously some brand loyalty at work, or feature lust, and this can't be all confined to Apple. (Just mostly.)

The soon-to-be-released RIM/BlackBerry PlayBook got 3% demand.

To date, the Samsung Galaxy Tab (3%) has done little to date to slow iPad's momentum.

It remains to be seen which of these tablets, or other new entries in the market, will be able to successfully compete. Each faces an uphill battle with the refreshed iPad 2 about to hit the shelves.

These copies I mean compliments I mean competitors will have to show some good features, have support networks that include apps and, most likely, have to be cheaper to make any headway at all.

But a new phenomenon is so-called 'device cannibalisation'. Not so long ago, Apple was being criticised for not making a netbook. It appeared (quite reasonably) that Apple thought netbooks weren't worth bothering with as they were substandard devices. This might arrogantly appear that Apple didn't care to make a cheap device for poor people (nothing new there). But hey, an iPad is around the same price, and it's way less clunky to use with no foldy-outy bits.

And sure enough, iPad seems to have wounded the netbook market a bit.

Changewave asked current Tablet owners whether there were any other products they had originally planned on buying but had put on hold or canceled in order to purchase a tablet.

According to the survey, the product lines most vulnerable to the tablet onslaught are eReaders, laptops and netbooks, with Kindle eReaders being particularly hit (17%), then laptops in general (11%), then netbooks (10%).

I would never substitute an iPad for a laptop, as I use a laptop for much more 'real' work, but the distinction will continue to blur with dual-processor iPads.

The complete Changewave report is available ... for US$1500, but you can read a free version here that covers all of the above in more detail.

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com