Apple has unveiled several new devices, including a next-generation “iPad Air” and an iPad Mini with Retina Display.
Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage first, to brag about some recent company statistics; a few days after the launch of iOS 7, for example, some 200 million devices were running the new operating system. He also used his speech to take swipes at Apple’s competitors as hopelessly confused about their respective future directions. “We have a very clear direction and a very ambitious goal,” he said.
With that, Apple executives took the stage to detail the next edition of Mac OS X, codenamed “Mavericks,” which reportedly makes laptop batteries and memory usage more efficient; the software is also designed for optimized graphics. New features include “tags,” which allows users to better organize files either stored locally or in iCloud, as well as PC versions of Apple’s Maps and iBooks apps. Mavericks will be free, and available for download starting Oct. 22.
On the hardware side of things, Apple revealed more about the new (and much-rumored) MacBook Pro with Retina Display, including a reduced weight and increased thinness over previous versions; the 13-inch version includes an Intel Haswell chip with integrated Iris graphics (which Apple claims are 90 percent faster than the previous generation); it retails for $1,299 (at the most basic level). The 15-incher boasts an Intel Crystalwell chip with Iris Pro graphics, which sip power; pricing starts at $1,999.
Next up: the Mac Pro, a black cylinder packed with high-end technology. It’s one-eighth the volume of the previous Mac Pro, and includes an Intel Xeon E5 processor (quad, 6, 8, or 12-core), a 30MB L3 cache, and up to 64GB of memory and 1TB of flash storage. Apple is building the devices in the United States.
Apple is updating some in-house apps such as GarageBand, and making them free with purchase of a new device. “We are turning the industry on its ear,” Cook said, in reference to all this free software. Certainly Apple is following in the footsteps of Google, which makes its cloud-based software free; if this all leads to an industry-wide trend toward giving consumers and businesses free software, it could spell trouble for Microsoft and other companies that depend on revenue from software sales.
Despite these bells and whistles, the audience was clearly intent on seeing whatever Apple had to announce in the iPad department. The company has sold 170 million iPads so far (and cultivated 475,000 tablet-ready apps in its App Store), which makes it a hit; but competitors such as Google have been flooding the ecosystem with tablets, somewhat eroding Apple’s overall market-share.
The next-generation iPad has been dubbed the “iPad Air,” with a 9.7-inch Retina Display—same as previous generations, albeit with a smaller bezel. It is 7.5mm thick, 20 percent thinner than the previous version, and features an A7 processor and M7 motion co-processor; it weighs a pound. If anything, it resembles a blown-up iPad Mini, and will replace the “big” iPad in the company’s lineup.
Apple is also updating the 7.9-inch iPad Mini with a Retina Display, a much-requested feature. It’s powered by an A7 chip with 64-bit architecture; battery life is 10 hours.