You've Got to Touch Apple's Airy New iPad to Believe It
Apple SVP Phil Schiller wasn't exactly speechless, but he did seem a bit at a loss for words to describe the new iPad Air. "When you hold it, it will be a dramatically different experience." Thinner. Lighter. Airy. "When you first hold it, you'll understand why we're so excited about this new iPad," he said. When we get our hands on it, we'll tell you what it's like -- if we can find the words.
In a flurry of presentations at its special media event on Tuesday, Apple introduced new iPads, MacBook Pros, the Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks -- available immediately, and free -- as well new generations of iWork and iLife app suites.
The biggest buzz comes from Apple's brand new iPad, the iPad Air, which is 20 percent thinner and 28 percent lighter than the fourth-generation iPad that it replaces. Apple's senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, noted that Apple has been working on the iPad Air for years -- and has been waiting for engineering advances in some areas in order to deliver such a slim device.
The iPad Air is 7.5 mm, compared with the previous 9.4 mm. It weighs just 1 lb. compared with the previous 1.4 lb. fourth-generation iPad. The presentation of the iPad Air on stage at Apple's event seemed a little flat, however. It almost seemed as if Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Apple, felt challenged to express just how cool the new iPad Air actually is -- how the feat of engineering and design come together to create a better tablet experience.
"When you hold it, it will be a dramatically different experience," he said, and then again a bit later, "When you first hold it, you'll understand why we're so excited about this new iPad."
Of course, Apple's Retail Stores will let potential customers hold the iPad Air for themselves -- starting Nov. 1. The new Retina iPad mini will ship later in November.
Both new iPads boast the latest Apple-designed A7 chip with 64-bit architecture, as well as faster built-in WiFi and expanded LTE cellular connectivity. The iPad Air starts at US$499 for 16 GB and WiFi and ramps up to $929 for the 128-GB model with cellular service capability. The new Retina iPad mini starts at $399 for a 16-GB model with WiFi and rises to $829 for a 128-GB model with cellular service capability.
It's worth noting that Apple has now sold more than 170 million iPads, which account for 81 percent of all tablets used in the world.
Free Mavericks for Everyone
While Apple also announced updated MacBook Pros and re-introduced the Mac Pro, the more important news is that the next generation of OS X became available for Apple customers to download starting Tuesday, and get this -- it's now free. Clearly Apple is looking to get its customer base quickly moving forward into the latest generation of OS X, and this move should provide a startling new rate of early upgrade adoption.
Apple packed more than 200 new features into OS X Mavericks, including the long-awaited desktop app version of iBooks and Maps. There's a new version of Apple's Safari browser, better multi-display support, and a new feature called "Finder Tabs" that helps users unclutter their desktops by letting them combine multiple Finder windows into a single window with tabs. Plus, you can now tag your files to help you organize and find them across your Mac and in iCloud.
New iWork and iLife Apps
Apple updated half a dozen of its core apps from its iWork productivity suite and iLife creativity apps. Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand have all been completely redesigned to take advantage of OS Mavericks, as well as iOS 7. All the apps have been updated to 64-bit and are integrated with iCloud.
While Apple showed off just a handful of features, the real new benefit to users is that all these apps now will deliver seamless experiences across all iOS devices and Macs via a new unified file format.
An even better feature is iWork for iCloud beta, which lets you work with iWork apps online via a browser -- and now with real-time collaboration with friend or peer. Other online services have had this feature already -- like Google Docs -- and this is a welcome addition to iWork for iCloud that Apple seemed proud to show off.
Faster MacBook Pros at Smaller Prices
Apple also refreshed its Retina-based 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, new graphics, longer battery life, faster flash storage and next generation WiFi. This generally represents an incremental advancement in these MacBooks except for a few interesting items.
Apple says the new integrated Intel Iris graphics deliver up to 90 percent faster performance than the previous generation MacBook Pro with Retina display. Plus, OS X Mavericks can give the integrated graphics chips additional memory resources to run games or intense graphics processing. Basically, for most everyone but true professionals, integrated graphics are more than enough. Of course, customers of the 15-incher can get GeForce GT 750M discrete graphics with 2 GB of video memory.
The 13-inch Retina model starts at a new lower price -- $1,299 (that's $200 less than previous generations) -- and the 15-inch Retina model now starts at $1,999. The new MacBook Pros are available today.
Another Peek at the Sexy Mac Pro
Apple took the time to show off its upcoming black, round sexy tube of Mac Pro again, giving the world a look at the manufacturing process -- made in the USA -- as well as offering up some early adopter comments from moviemakers and musicians who appreciate its speed and quiet.
Incidentally, the Mac Pro is as quiet as a Mac mini -- no loud fans. The Pro starts at $2,999, but it won't ship until December.