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Apple unveils the iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display, new Macs

Associated Press
Oct 23, 2013 at 09:08am IST

San Francisco: Apple is refreshing its iPad lineup in hopes of reclaiming lost ground in the tablet market and slashing the prices of its Mac computers to intensify the pressure on the beleaguered makers of PCs running Microsoft's Windows.

Tuesday's unveiling of Apple's latest products primes the company for a holiday shopping season onslaught aimed at a list of rivals that includes Google, Samsung Electronics, Amazon.com and Microsoft.

ALSO SEE Apple unveils iPad Air, the fifth-generation iPad; prices start at $499

A thinner, lighter and faster-running tablet computer called the iPad Air highlighted the event in San Francisco. Apple also showed off a souped-up iPad Mini that boasts a faster microprocessor, a high-definition display screen and a higher price than its predecessor.

Apple unveils the iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display, new Macs

"We are turning the industry on its ear," Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the company's strategy.

The iPad upgrades, coming a year after the release of the tablet's previous generation, fell largely in line with analyst expectations.

ALSO SEE Apple adds Retina Display to iPad Mini; 16GB WiFi at $399

In a surprise, Apple is introducing slightly revamped MacBook Pros at prices 9 per cent to 13 per cent below the previous versions. What's more, Apple is giving away its latest Mac operating system - Mavericks - for free, as well as several pieces of software, including programs called iWorks and iLife that provide many of the same tools as Microsoft's Office.

"We are turning the industry on its ear," Apple CEO Tim Cook said of the company's strategy.

ALSO SEE Apple launches updated MacBook Pros at $1299 onwards

Technology analyst Patrick Moorhead predicted the discounted MacBook Pros will force personal computer makers to cut the prices of their machines by at least $100 for the holidays.

And Ovum analyst Jan Dawson thinks Apple's giveaway of the operating system and software programs "is now teaching people to expect both of those things to be free. While this won't disrupt Microsoft's business overnight, it will create further pressure on Microsoft to bring down prices."

ALSO SEE Apple offers OS X Mavericks operating system for free

If that happens, it would be another blow for Microsoft, which has seen its Windows revenue suffer in recent years as personal computer sales sink amid a shift to smartphones and tablets.

Apple triggered the upheaval with the 2007 release of the first iPhone followed up with the 2010 introduction of the iPad.

ALSO SEE Images: iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display, new Macs

While both products have a fierce following, Apple has been losing market share to rivals who primarily make mobile devices running on Google's Android software. As Apple is now doing with its Mavericks software for Macs, Google gives away Android to device makers who can afford to undercut the prices for iPhones and iPads.

Despite the competitive pressure, Apple has steadfastly refused to cut prices on its top-of-the-line products. Instead, it has sold older versions of its Phones and iPads at slight discounts to consumers who are willing to settle for something less than state-of-the-art technology.

The Cupertino, Calif. company is hewing to that philosophy with its latest tablets. The iPad Air will start at $499, just like its predecessors, while the new iPad Mini will sell for $399 - a 21 percent increase from the price of the first Mini. The price of the original Mini, which runs at slower speeds and lacks a high-definition display screen, is falling from $329 to $299.

As it has done for more than year, Apple will continue selling the iPad 2 - a tablet that came out two-and-half years ago - for $399.

"Apple doesn't want to play in the mud with declining prices" on iPads, Moorhead said.

The strategy hasn't been a hit with investors who are unhappy with the Cupertino, Calif. company's slowing growth as it loses sales to lower-priced alternatives. Wall Street also is disillusioned with Apple's lack of another breakthrough product since the death of co-founder and chief visionary Steve Jobs two years ago.

Apple's stock dipped $1.49 to close at $519.87 Tuesday. The shares remain about 25 per cent below their peak reached 13 months ago.

The iPad Air's main appeal is a more svelte design and a faster microprocessor, the same kind of chip in the iPhone 5S that Apple released a month ago. The new tablet weighs just 1 pound, compared with 1.4 pounds for the previous version. Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller hailed it as a "screaming fast iPad," noting that it is eight times faster than the original model that came out in 2010.

The iPad Air will go on sale November 1. The new iPad Mini will be available at a still-to-be-determined date later in November.

They are coming out at a time when Apple needs to reassert itself in a tablet market. Google, Amazon.com and Samsung have been winning over consumers with flashy tablets that sell for $200 to $400. None of the rivals boast the 475,000 apps that Apple says are made for the iPad, but that vast selection hasn't mattered to many cost-conscious consumers.

The research firm Gartner estimates that Android tablets will end 2013 with a 50 per cent share of the worldwide market versus 49 per cent for the iPad. Just two years ago, the iPad commanded a 65 per cent market share compared to 30 per cent for Android tablets.

Apple sold 14.6 million iPads during the three months ending in June, down 14 percent from the same time last year. It marked the first time Apple has posted a year-over-year decline in iPad sales.

It might have happened again in the latest quarter ending in September. Although Apple isn't scheduled to report its results for the latest quarter until next Monday, a statistic released at Tuesday's event gave a hint of how the iPad fared in the period.

Cook said Apple's total iPad sales since the device's inception surpassed 170 million units earlier this month. Given that Apple sold 155 million iPads through June, that means fewer than 15 million were sold in the quarter ending in September. Apple sold 14 million iPads in last year's quarter ending in September.

At a glance: New Apple product specs

iPad Air

SIZE: 9.4 inches tall, 6.6 inches wide and 0.29 inch thick
WEIGHT: 1 pound
DISPLAY: 9.7 inches diagonally
RESOLUTION: 2,048 pixels by 1,536 pixels, at 264 pixels per inch
CHIP: A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
COLOURS: Black with space gray, white with silver
PRICE: $499 for a Wi-Fi-only 16 gigabyte model, $599 for 32 GB, $699 for 64 GB and $799 for 128 GB. Add $130 for models with 4G LTE cellular access. Apple will still sell the 2011 model, iPad 2, for $399.
AVAILIBILITY: November 1

iPad Mini with Retina Display

SIZE: 7.87 inches tall, 5.3 inches wide, 0.29 inch thick
WEIGHT: 0.73 pound
DISPLAY: 7.9 inches diagonally
RESOLUTION: 2,048 pixels by 1,536 pixels, at 326 pixels per inch
CHIP: A7 chip with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor
COLOURS: Black with space gray, white with silver
PRICE: $399 for a Wi-Fi-only 16 gigabyte model, $499 for 32 GB, $599 for 64 GB and $699 for 128 GB. Add $130 for models with 4G LTE cellular access. Apple will sell last year's model, without the sharper display, for $299, down from $329.
AVAILABILITY: November

MacBook Pro - 13 Inch

SIZE: 0.71 inch thick, (when closed), 12.35 inches wide and 8.62 inches deep
WEIGHT: 3.46 pounds
DISPLAY: 13.3-inches diagonally
RESOLUTION: 2,560 pixels by 1,600 pixels, at 227 pixels per inch
CAMERA: 720p FaceTime HD Camera
BATTERY: Up to 9 hours wireless web, or 30 days standby
PRICE: Starts at $1,299 for model with 128 gigabytes of solid-state memory, 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
AVAILIBILITY: Tuesday

MacBook Pro - 15 Inch

SIZE: 0.71 inch thick, (when closed), 14.13 inches wide and 9.73 inches deep
WEIGHT: 4.46 pounds
DISPLAY: 15.4 inches diagonally
RESOLUTION: 2,880 pixels by 1,800 pixels, at 220 pixels per inch
CAMERA: 720p FaceTime HD Camera
BATTERY: Up to 8 hours wireless web, or 30 days standby
PRICE: Starts at $1,999 for model with 256 gigabytes of solid-state memory, 2.0 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
AVAILIBILITY: Tuesday

Other products:

Mac Pro: A high-end desktop computer in a cylinder casing and assembled in Austin, Texas. Available in December for a starting price of $2,999.

Mavericks: The latest version of the Mac operating system. Unlike previous updates, Apple is releasing it for free. It promises better battery life, improved file management and new apps such as a Mac version of Maps.

iWork: Apple is refreshing its suite of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Apple is offering it for free with new Mac and iOS devices. Once you buy the new device, you can install the app in older devices you own. Each of the three apps normally costs $20 for the Mac and $10 for iPhones and iPads.

iLife: Apple also is refreshing its iPhoto and iMovie editing software and the GarageBand app for creating music. New features are available for both Mac and iOS devices. It's also free with new Mac and iOS devices.

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