Here are highlights from Apple’s press event in San Francisco today, which I followed via a webcast.
It’s a critical rollout for the company that has seen sales of its iPad fall in the face of growing competition, including lower priced devices based on Google’s Android software.
Apple highlighted the momentum of its new iPhones and revealed a new, thinner version of its iPad, which it’s now calling the iPad Air. Chief Executive Tim Cook also took several swipes at competitors, mocking efforts by PC makers to produce tablets, such as the new Microsoft and Nokia tablets that debuted today.
The company declined to lower prices of its iPads to compete with cheaper Android tablets that are selling faster. Instead it raised the price of its new iPad mini by $70, to $399.
But Apple slightly lowered the price of its new laptops and will begin giving away some apps, including its iWork productivity software.
Here it is:
iPhone sales: Although Apple’s iPhone 5C and 5S have been a mixed bag, there was plenty of pent-up demand for the new devices. Cook said they sold 9 million units over the launch weekend, “making it the biggest iPhone launch weekend ever.”
iOS7: Cook said the company’s new mobile operating system has been widely applied. Within five days of its release, more than 200 million devices were running the new software, “making it the biggest and fastest software upgrade ever.” Now 64 percent of Apple devices are running the new operating system.
App store: More than 1 million apps are available now and users have now downloaded 60 billion apps from Apple’s store, generating $13 billion in sales for developers.
Competition: On competitors, Cook said “they’re confused.” He didn’t call out any competitor in particular but he was clearly referring to the Windows PC industry.
“They chased after netbooks,” he said. “Now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs.”
Macs: Instead of calling out Mac sales, which declined between 2 and 11 percent during the back-to-school season, Cook talked about how the company’s PCs work well with Apple’s ecosystem including its online services.
“We still believe deeply in this category and we’re not slowing down on our innovation. We’ve been really hard at work on the Mac.”
OS X: The company highlighted the tenth version of its OS X operating system, dubbed Mavericks, that it’s releasing today. Improvements include better usage of processors and batteries in Macs. On the 13-inch MacBook Air, Mavericks provides up to an hour more web browsing and 90 minutes more iTunes viewing time, Apple Senior Vice President Craig Federighi said.
MacBook: Apple announced updates to its MacBook Pro that use Intel’s fourth-generation “Haswell” Core processors. The 13-inch model is lighter – 3.46 pounds – and thinner, at 0.71 inches thick. It’s also cheaper, with an Intel i5 model starting at $1,299, down from the previous $1,499. The 15-inch Pro with an Intel i7 and 256 gigabytes of flash storage costs $1,999, down from $2,199.
Mac Pro: The new, cylindrical desktop that the company revealed this summer was also called out. It’s based on 3.7 gigahertz Intel Xeon 45 processors and comes with dual AMD graphics processors offering up to 7 teraflops of computing power. Storage is all flash-based, with up to 1 terabyte of capacity. It starts at $2,999 for a model with 12 gigs of RAM and 256 gigs of storage and will go on sale before the end of the year.
Globalization: It may not end concerns about working conditions at Chinese factories building Apple’s high-volume products but the company said it’s going to manufacture the Mac Pro in the U.S.
Apps: First-party apps iLife, iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand have been updated for Apple’s new operating systems and are free with the purchase of a new iOS device. Apple also updated its iWork productivity apps, with a new right-side control panel on the Mac version and a horizontal menu of touch controls on the iOS version.
iPad: Cook addressed concerns about slowing iPad sales by talking about cumulative sales of the device, which have now reached 170 million units, and usage. Cook said that installed base is now being used four times more than other tablet platforms, and he encouraged the audience to disregard reporting on slowing sales.
“I can’t think of another product that’s come so far so fast,” he said. “Now everybody seems to be making a tablet – even some of the doubters are now making them. But regardless of what you might hear or read about how many are bought or sold or activated, iPad is used more than any of the rest.”
iPad Air: The highlight of the event is a new iPad that the company is calling the iPad Air. It’s 20 percent thinner with a chamfered, chrome edge like the current mini. It weights one pound, down from 1.4 pounds, and includes the new 64-bit A7 chip that’s used in the new iPhone 5S.
Schiller said the iPad Air renders graphics 72 times faster than the original iPad. It also gets somewhat faster WiFi (but still not the latest flavor, 802.11ac), a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera and dual microphones for better audio capture. Battery life remains at 10 hours.
Pricing remains $499 for WiFi models and $629 for models with LTE. They will be available starting Nov. 1.
Apple will continue selling the iPad 2 for $399.
iPad Mini: As expected, Apple also unveiled a new version of the iPad mini with a higher-resolution, 7.9-inch “retina” display. It also includes the 64-bit A7 chip and goes on sale “later in November” for $399, a price increase of $70. The current iPad Mini drops in price to $299.
Conclusion and parting shot: “This is what we mean by designed by Apple in California,” Cook (below) said. “Other companies would be incredibly proud to just have one of these products but we couldn’t be more pleased to be able to present all of them to you in time for the holidays.”