Wrapping Up Apple's Event Today Announcing New iPads and More

Once more, Apple has created a lot of excitement with their event today announcing new products. Perhaps the biggest surprises were the availability of the new version of the Mac OS (Mavericks) for free, the availability of the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) for free with the purchase of a new device, the higher price on the iPad mini, the speedy A7 64-bit chip for the mini, and the new name for the iPad: the iPad Air. Apple's move toward free software is unprecedented in the industry.

For iOS users, the biggest news of the day was the new iPads. The aptly named iPad Air is 20 percent thinner than the previous iPad and weighs in at just 1 lb compared to the 1.4 lbs of the previous iPad. It's the lightest full-sized tablet in the world. It has the new A7 64-bit processor as well as the M7 coprocessor. It's up to twice as fast as the previous iPad, and 72 times faster than the original iPad. The camera is improved, and there's a new HD FaceTime camera. Plus, dual microphones for sound capture. It comes in silver and space gray, and the pricing remains the same, starting at $499 for the 16GB model. Overall, I think this is a nice improvement for the iPad and an appealing device. Apple will sell a lot of them. It will be available in November. Apple will continue to sell the iPad 2 as their low-end model, starting at $399 for the 16GB model. That iPad first launched in 2011.

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The new iPad mini now has a higher-resolution retina display, at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, which is the same as the iPad Air. That means that, because of its smaller size, it actually has greater pixel density than the iPad Air. It comes with the new powerhouse A7 64-bit processor, as well as the M7 coprocessor. Everyone had pretty much expected that the mini would get the A6 processor, but Apple skipped a generation and went up to the A7. That means it's radically faster than the first-generation iPad mini: up to 4 times faster for CPU tasks and up to 8 times faster for graphics tasks. The pricing is higher than before, breaking Apple's tradition of introducing new devices at the same price. The retina iPad mini begins at $399 for the 16GB WiFi model and $529 for the 16GB cellular data model. It will be available later in November. As with the iPad Air, both the cameras have received a bit of an upgrade, but the camera is nothing like that on the iPhone 5s. As with the iPad Air and iPhone 5s, the new mini will come in silver and space gray. Apple will continue to sell the first-generation iPad mini, starting at $299 for the 16GB WiFi version and $429 for the 16GB version with cellular data connectivity.

Apple said the iPad is one of the most successful products in the industry, with over 170 million having been sold. There are now over 475,000 apps that have been custom-designed for the iPad, which is probably at least 10 times as many as on other platforms.

Apple again announced, as they did at September's iPhone event, that those who buy new iOS devices will be able to download the iLife suite for free — Garage Band, iPhoto, and iMovie. These apps have been redesigned for iOS 7 and rewritten to take advantage of the new 64-bit processors in the new iPads and iPhone 5s. Plus, they come with a bunch of new features. Some of the new features include Photo Books on the iPad, which lets you create books and then upload them to Apple for printing and shipping. The new iMovie lets you more easily browse your movies and share then with friends. Plus, you now get desktop-class effects such as changing speeds and picture-in-picture. Garage Band has now been improved to give you 16 tracks, up from 8. Plus, if you have a device with a 64-bit processor, you can have up to 32 tracks. That's real professional-level recording. 

Again, a big announcement today is that Apple's iWorks suite is FREE with the purchase of a new device. That includes Pages for word-processing and page layout, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations. They've also been completely redesigned for iOS 7 and for 64-bit processing. They're cross-compatible, allowing you to open a document on any device or platform. Numbers now has object-based charts that are more interactive. Keynote has new animation and transition features. Documents can now be shared more easily. But the most important new feature is likely collaboration, which takes place via iCloud. Two people can edit the same document at the same time. 

Apple also gave an overview of how the new iPhones are selling. Over 9 million were sold the first three days they were available. In addition, iOS 7 has been downloaded over 200 million times, and is now on over two-thirds of iOS devices. They also announced that over 20 million people are using iTunes Radio. The App Store now has over 1 million apps, and over 60 billion apps have been downloaded.

The Macintosh was also part of today's event, with the biggest news being that the new version of the Mac OS, called Mavericks, is available for free download. It used to cost over $100, then in recent years dropped to $20, and is now free. 

Apple introduced new laptops, and lowered the price of the new MacBook Pro models by $200. And once more they introduced the new Mac Pro, their high-end desktop computer that is truly amazing. It will be available in December starting at $2,999. It only uses flash memory internally, offering up to 1 terabyte, with 256GB standard. It offers up to a 12-core processor, and up to 7 teraflop performance. That's fast. Ten years ago it would have been one of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

All in all, Apple continues to lead the industry. It's always fun to see their vision and how they pay attention to the smallest details and the user experience. And to see how they're always moving ahead.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.