As expected, Apple announced updates to its iPad line of tablets on Tuesday. A replacement for the full-sized iPad—now called iPad Air—will ship on November 1, but an updated iPad mini with Retina display won't ship until the end of next month.
"iPad created an entirely new mobile computing experience, and the new iPad Air is another big leap ahead," Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller noted in a prepared statement. "It is so thin, light, and powerful, once you hold one in your hand you will understand what a tremendous advancement this is."
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The iPad Air is a thinner and lighter rendition of the full-sized iPad, and it features the same styling as the iPad mini. The smaller tablet, meanwhile, picks up a stunning 2048 x 1536 resolution screen, equal to that of its bigger sibling. These changes were widely rumored before the event.
The new devices weren't surprising in any way, but Apple held the line on pricing despite recent lower-cost upgrades from its competitors. Amazon and Google both sell 7" Android-based tablets with Full HD (1080p) screens that start at just $229, but the entry-level iPad mini with Retina display costs $399 and up. Likewise, the new iPad Air starts at $499; it's the fifth straight full-sized iPad to start at that price point, while comparable competitors cost $100 or more less.
Of course, this is Apple. And if there's one thing we've learned about this firm over the years, it's that it doesn't play by the same rules. Among other things, it continues to sell the years-old iPad 2 for $399, and you can pick up last year's low-resolution iPad mini for $299, $30 less than before.
Apple touted 170 million cumulative iPad sales over the past three and a half years as proof of its popularity. (It even highlighted an old quote of mine for a cheap laugh.) But it neglected to mention that PC makers sold that many devices in the past two quarters alone. And, as you know, the PC is doomed.
But Apple is right to push the many benefits of this popular platform. The iPad has more native apps than any platform, by far, and more unique accessories and services solutions. Apple also announced Tuesday that new versions of its iLife and iWork suite would be given away to all new iPad customers for free.
Apple also announced refreshed versions of its MacBook Pro with Retina Display laptops, an expensive new Mac Pro workstation PC, and the immediate release of its latest Mac OS X version, called Mavericks. This new version of OS X is being given away for free to users of the three previous versions of OS X, similar to how Microsoft is giving Windows 8.1 away for free to existing Windows 8 users. (That said, Microsoft's offer impacts far more users. Still, it's a nice gesture.)
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