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Live Blogging The Apple Mini Launch Event
This morning Apple introduced the long-rumored iPad Mini, a new 13-inch retina display MacBook Pro and a new, thinner iMac. The iPad Mini starts (as rumored) at $329. Below is my live-blog of the event as it unfolded:
For the first time in at least a couple of years, you’ll be able to watch the event in real-time through a live stream on Apple’s website.
I’m now inside the very packed California theater in San Jose. I must say the event WiFi is very good, much better than my Verizon MiFi (allegedly 4G) hotspot.
iPhone and iOS Update (Stats)
Tim Cook has come on stage. He’s providing an iPhone 5 update. Cook: “We sold out the first weekend, selling more than 5 million units.” This is the most phones ever sold in an opening weekend, he says.
Now we’re seeing a promotional video of the iPhone 5 opening weekend launch at Apple stores. Cook is now talking about the iPod Touch He says, “We’ve already sold over 3 million units (including other iPods).” It’s a little unclear how many iPod Touches were sold from the statement.
Cook says, “After one month there are 200 million devices running iOS 6. This is the fastest upgrade rate of any software in history . . . that we’re aware of.” He goes on to talk about iCloud and some of the software integration between Mac and iOS. There are 160 million Game Center users and so on.
Cook moves on to the App Store: 275K iPad apps; 700K iPhone apps. These numbers were shared before, during the previous iPhone 5 event in September. “Customers have now downloaded 35 billion apps from the App Store.” Cook adds that Apple has paid out $6.5 billion to developers.
iBooks is one of the most popular apps in the App Store, Cook says. He adds that there are over 1.5 million books in the iBookstore. Today a new version of iBooks is being introduced, with continuous scrolling and better integration with iCloud.
On to the Mac. Cook says the Mac has outpaced the PC market for the past six years straight. The Mac is now the number one desktop and notebook PC in the US says Cook (sources not cited).
Phil Schiller is now on stage to discuss the Mac and some new machines. “Today is a big day for the Mac.” The 15-inch Macbook Pro with the retina display is the best Mac, says Schiller.
New Retina Display 13-inch MacBook
However the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the number one selling Mac, he explains. Now for the announcement: a new 13-inch retina display MacBook Pro, which is 20 percent thinner and almost a full pound lighter than previous version of the machine — with ports aplenty! “It’s equally beautiful from either side,” he jokes.
Schiller is extolling the virtues and resolution of the retina display. “Everything about the new MacBook pro has been re-engineered,” he says, giving a tour of the guts of the new machine. It has “Up to 7 hours of battery life.”
The new machine starts at $1,699 (only 8GB of ram though; you’ll undoubtedly want more). That’s $500 less than the 15-inch retina display MacBook (still seems pretty pricey). And now for the ad, narrated by actor Peter Coyote.
Schiller is now talking about the Mac Mini. He makes a joke: “You knew there would be something called mini in this presentation.” Very funny. The audience laughs. Then the blizzard of specs from Schiller. . . the machine starts at $599.
The Super-Thin iMac
Now for an iMac refresh. “The flagship of the Mac product line.” There have now been 7 generations of the iMac. The next (8th) generation being shown on the screen now is very thin . . . amazingly thin in fact. And it’s an all-in-one machine. The crowd goes wild.
The edge is 5mm thin, 80 percent thinner than the current/old iMac — impressively thin. There are two screen sizes: 21.5 inch and 27 inch machines. Schiller is going on about how Apple was able to design such a thin machine.
It has a better camera, better sound and it’s lighter than the previous generation. We’re now getting the spec review . . . It is a very nice machine. Yes, but how much does it cost?
Before he gets to any discussion of price, Schiller is digressing to introduce a new “fusion drive,” which combines a conventional hard drive and flash storage. This optimizes storage and speed on the machine. The computer figures out what to put on the flash drive and what to put on the hard drive, based on usage patterns.
Finally the iMac price . . . $1,299 (21.5 inch). The larger screen model is $1,799. They ship over the next two months. “These are the boldest Mac designs we’ve ever created.” Schiller exits; Cook is back.
iPads: Big and Small
Cook is going to provide numbers “to illustrate the growth and momentum [of the iPad].” He announces 100 million in iPad sales, “in just 2 and a half years.” Cook repeats a previously revealed stat: “We sold more iPads than PCs sold in Q2.” He also talks again about the tablet traffic distribution (91 percent iPad vs 9 percent others).
Cook says that iPad has been “embraced in education” and is an “incredible learning tool.” Cook reads educator testimonials about the benefits of using the iPad in the classroom.
Cook is now talking about software program iBooks Author. He says that textbooks created with it are now available for 80 percent of the US high school curriculum and in over 2,500 schools in the US. Today there’s a new version of iBooks Author with new templates and customization capabilities, including interactive widgets.
Cook says, the iPad is “taking the business world by storm” and being used in situations “where you could never dream of seeing a PC.”
Phil Schiller is now back for the new iPad product announcements. He is announcing a “4th generation iPad.” It has a new A6 chip, which makes the iPad faster and more powerful. It also has expanded LTE coverage around the world with more carrier partners.
As rumored, it features the reviled lightening connector. It seems like he raced through this. It has “Twice the performance and new features at the same price,” says Schiller. The WiFi model starts at $499.
Now the Mini: Starting at $329
Here comes the smaller iPad (7.9 inch diagonal). The crowd goes wild — sustained applause. It is called “iPad Mini.”
Schiller: What can you do with this . . . “hold it in one hand.” He says this isn’t just a “shrunken down iPad.” It’s “incredibly thin, light and beautiful from every angle.” It’s thinner and lighter than the iPad 4 in fact.
“It’s as thin as a pencil … as light as a pad of paper.” It comes in black and white. All of the software and apps created for iPad work on the Mini unchanged.
Schiller says that everything you can do on the iPad you’ll love doing on the iPad Mini. “Others have tried to make small tablets . . . and they failed.” (That’s a bit harsh and not entirely correct.)
He’s now comparing the Mini with the Nexus 7. The Google Nexus 7 has a smaller display but is “thicker and heavier.” Clearly Apple thinks the Nexus 7 is the category leader in this smaller tablet class.
Schiller says the iPad Mini is 50 percent larger in terms of the web page real estate that it can show vs. the Nexus 7 in portrait mode and 2/3 larger in landscape mode. The Android tablets have “phone applications stretched out; they don’t have tablet applications.”
He’s showing a bunch of side by side comparisons with apps on the Nexus 7 vs. the iPad Mini. In each case the Mini looks better (Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.).
“The technologies inside the Mini are equal to or better than the iPad 2 in every way.” It has a dual core A5 chip and better cameras. And 10 hours of battery life. The display has the same resolution as the iPad 2. There’s a new smart cover as well.
Waiting for the price . . . this will be key to its success. But first another commercial: Jonathan Ive is now on screen. “We went back to the very beginning and took the time to design a product that is a concentration but not a reduction of the original,” says Ive on the video. “Every part had to be custom designed.”
The video is over; Schiller is back. The basic version is of the Mini will be 16GB and the price will be . . . $329 (as rumored). iPad 2 is $399 and iPad 4 is $499 and up (guess the 3 is totally replaced by the 4). The iPad Mini and the 4th-gen iPad will be available for pre-order on October 26.
Lots of people will buy the Mini but not as many as if it had been priced at $199 (to match Kindle Fire, Nexus 7). Apple is clearly protecting the iPod Touch (priced at $299). That’s too bad because at $199 the choice of which tablet to buy would have been a no-brainer. But Apple probably wouldn’t make anything on the Mini at $199. Amazon is basically selling the Kindle Fire devices at cost.
Now we’re seeing a clever TV ad featuring the Mini beside the larger iPad, playing the song “Heart and Soul” on a piano app. The crowd loves it again — sustained applause.
Cook: “A Truly Prolific Year”
Cook is back on stage for the final review of the announcements from earlier today and earlier this year: Mountain Lion, iOS 6, iPhone 5, 3rd and 4th generation iPads, iPad Mini . . .
He closes by saying this has been “a truly prolific year of innovation for Apple.”
Postscript: See our follow-up article, The Tablet Pricing Spectrum: Kindle Fire To Nexus 7 To iPad Mini