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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 23, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Apple unveils thinner iMacs, new iPads, MacBook Pro

Apple is trying to spoil the party in Seattle, announcing new PCs and a mini iPad ahead of Microsoft’s launch of Windows 8 on Friday and Amazon.com’s launch of its 10-inch Kindle Fire next month.

WIth the PC industry gearing up for a major refresh around Windows 8, Apple hopes hoping to lure buyers with new models of its desktop and portable computers. But while Apple’s new hardware is gorgeous, it’s also very expensive, which will limit its chances of taking over the desktop and laptop PC market that’s still dominated by Microsoft.

A new version of the desktop iMac unveiled today is 80 percent thinner than the current model. Apple also is offering it with a hybrid hard drive — combining a spinning hard drive with flash storage — similar to what Windows PCs have been using to boost performance.

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(SAN JOSE, CA – OCTOBER 23: Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller announcing the new iMac during the event at the historic California Theater on October 23, 2012 in San Jose, California. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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The base model iMac with an i5 processor, traditional hard drive and 21.5-inch display costs $1,299 and ships next month. The base 27-inch model is $1,799 and ships in December. They no longer have DVD drives. (Apple is livestreaming the event to users of iOS, and it’s being blogged by Apple’s selected group of reporters.)

Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro line by adding models with high resolutoin “Retina Display” technology. A 13-inch model with USB 3.0 ports, a Core i5 processor and 256 gigabytes of storage but no DVD drive starts at $1,699. A 15-inch model starts at $2,199.

The new version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro – the best-selling Mac – is 20 percent thinner (0.75 inches thick) and nearly a pound lighter, at 3.57 pounds.

Apple is aiming at Amazon.com with a new version of its iBooks store and reading app. Despite the hype of previous versions they failed to get much traction against Amazon’s Kindle platform, which also runs on Apple devices.

Apple also is trying to deflect the new challenge of tablet computers running Microsoft’s Windows RT software that will debut on Friday, including Surface models made by Microsoft.

Its biggest weapon here is an updated model of the iPad announced today — its fourth-generation — with the same exterior but a faster processor and wireless radios. It starts at $499 or $629 for a model that connects to wireless phone networks. The starting price of the previous-generation “iPad 2” remains at $399.

As widely expected, Apple also unveiled an entirely new, smaller iPad — the iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch display — that’s a defensive move against the successful 7-inch Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. It’s about a fourth less heavy than the full-size iPad and has a slightly more squared-off design.

The iPad Mini is also less resolutionary than the bigger iPads, with less than HD 1024 by 768 resolution, but it still runs the same apps. Its case is 5.3 inches by 7.87 inches and 0.28 inches thick, and it weighs two-thirds of a pound.

Apple declined to compete on price, perhaps counting on its brand cachet and slightly bigger screen to lure buyers from competing pads in the space between smartphones and full-size tablets.

The iPad Mini will start at $329 — which is $130 more than the starting Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. The $329 model has 16 gigabytes of memory and Wi-Fi; a version that works on phone networks starts at $459. Wi-Fi versions ship starting Nov. 2.

Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs famously dismissed 7-inch tablets, saying they were destined to fail, but he’s no longer running the company.

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(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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Comments | Topics: Amazon.com, Apple, apple

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