Apple upgrading products for holidays

Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company's introduction of its iPad Air. He also took a few shots at competitors Tuesday.
Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company's introduction of its iPad Air. He also took a few shots at competitors Tuesday. (Getty Images)
Posted: October 25, 2013

What do you do if you have more than $145 billion in cash on hand - enough, say, to pay off Detroit's bankruptcy nearly eight times over?

If you're Apple, you use some to update much of your product line in time for the holidays. You build on your lead in some areas, and answer competitors' advances in others. Oh, and you cut your laptop and desktop prices by a couple hundred bucks, and start giving away key software.

Apple's pitch has always been that it charges more for premium products built around an integrated hardware-software ecosystem. On Tuesday, just weeks after unveiling two new versions of its pathbreaking iPhone, Apple doubled down on that strategy seeking to cement its standing, scoffing at competitors.

You don't need a scorecard to recognize its targets - that's been clear ever since Google drew Apple's wrath by introducing its open-source Android platform just months after the iPhone's 2007 debut. Androids now collectively outsell the iPhone and have made major inroads in the tablet market.

But on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook saved his sharpest jabs for Microsoft, which last year ventured into computer-making with its Surface tablets - new versions went on sale this week - and has worked with partners to reinvent Windows-based PCs as tablet-laptop hybrids. Nokia, which is selling its mobile-device business to Microsoft, competed for attention Tuesday as it unveiled a new Windows-based Lumia tablet.

As Cook announced improvements to Apple's tablets, laptops, and Mac Pro desktops at its San Francisco event, his message was clear: Apple's competitors are just nipping at the Big Dog's heels.

"Our competition is different. They're confused. They chased after netbooks," Cook said, drawing laughs over a concept that the iPad eclipsed three years ago. "Now they're trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they will do next?"

Apple, of course, has suffered its own missteps. Turn-by-turn misdirections on its Apple Maps app are still the butt of late-night jokes, despite Apple's fevered efforts to fix its database's flaws.

Some critics also see misjudgment in the early performance of its new iPhones. Although Apple reported a record nine million first-weekend sales of its iPhone 5S, sales of the $100 cheaper 5C, which lacks the 5S's fingerprint sensor and camera upgrades, have lagged.

That doesn't concern veteran Apple-watcher Tim Bajarin, of California's Creative Strategies, who says the colorful, plastic-bodied 5C was chiefly aimed at price-sensitive consumers in markets such as China.

Apple's sweet spot in the United States is anything but price-sensitive. Here are some of what Apple's fans will get for their money as each new product line arrives this fall:

Tablets. Apple will introduce a new $399 iPad Mini with its super-sharp Retina display, while dropping the original Mini to $299.

But the biggest change will come in the fifth-generation iPad, rechristened iPad Air, which weighs in at a pound, about six ounces lighter than last year's. Bajarin was sold after trying it. "You really can hold it in one hand and read."

To be sure, the 9.7-inch iPad Air will weigh nearly three ounces more than Amazon's 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX tablet, also due out next month. But Amazon, which zinged Apple on Wednesday with a "Lighter than Air" home-page pitch, calls that a "breakthrough ultra-light design."

Computers. Base prices drop $200 on the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina display. Both lines and the Mac Pro desktop feature 64-bit Intel chips that boast better speed and efficiency. The 13-inch MacBook Pro promises up to nine hours of battery life.

Software. Apple began offering free downloads of its latest OSX operating system, Mavericks, on Tuesday - upgrades it used to charge for. Purchasers of new products will also get its iLife and iWork suites for free.


IPad Air: A fifth- generation tablet weighing 1 pound; runs the 64-bit A7X processor in the new iPhone 5S, and starts at $499.

IPad Mini: Second generation features the Retina display already offered on some Mac products, and runs on the new 64-bit processor; starts at $399.

Mavericks: Apple's new operating system helps extend battery life and provides a more efficient memory that helps it run faster; provided for free and available immediately for download on Macs dating back to 2007.

MacBook Pro: Updated 13-inch and 15-inch models with new Intel chips, and both feature a $200 price cut, starting at $1,299 and $1,999, respectively.

Mac Pro: Updated desktop model features new-generation Intel Xeon processor with 4, 6, 8, or 12 cores and the fastest memory ever in a Mac.

Software offerings: Improved iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, and the iLife and iWork suites, which received updates to match Apple's new mobile and PC operating systems; offered free with the purchase of any new Apple device. Previous owners can update their software for free.

SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News

215-854-2776 @jeffgelles

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