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The name couldn’t be more prosaic: the new iPad. The technology it contains was mostly anticipated by Apple’s rabid followers. The bottom line, though, is that Apple (AAPL) has once again raised the bar in the booming industry for tablet computers.
Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, started Apple’s Wednesday event in San Francisco by laying out the commonly held vision for the future of computing—that it will be mobile—and arguing that the shift plays to Apple’s strengths. “When we talk about the post-PC world, we are talking about a world where the PC is no longer the center of your digital world but rather just a device,” he said, pacing the stage. “We are talking about a world where your new device, devices you use the most, need to be more portable, more personal, and dramatically more easy to use than any PC has ever been.”
Barely reading from his teleprompter and showing flashes of charisma, Cook started the product rollout with a new Apple TV—the company’s four-year-old set-top box and one of its rare non-blockbusters. The new version will support full high-definition 1080p quality TV shows and movies; the complimentary iCloud service will also store movies, meaning Apple users can download movies purchased from iTunes to any Apple device. The new Apple TV—the third version, I believe—still has the same squarish shape. (Price: $99. On sale March 16.) Though the word “hobby” wasn’t used—that’s how the late Steve Jobs referred to Apple TV—the fact that the unveiling came at the start of the event shows it continues to be a sideline project for Apple. That is, until Apple rolls out an actual TV, as many have speculated it might do later this year.
Cook next turned to the new iPad, boasting about how ubiquitous the device has become, with 55 million units sold, and how Apple is running circles around competing tablets.
The new iPad features a variety of improvements, which senior vice president Phil Schiller took the stage to present. There’s a higher-resolution 9.7-inch screen, which Apple calls the “retina display” and has used on recent versions of the iPhone. It has four times the number of pixels as the screen of the last iPad. The screen is powered by an Apple-made A5x chip, featuring a quad-core graphics processor. Schiller calls it the “best mobile display ever shipped.”
There are also better cameras on the front and back of the device, high-definition video recording, voice dictation, and it operates on the speedier wireless networks called 4G LTE. The new Wi-Fi-only iPads will start at $499, for the model with 16 gigabytes of memory. With 4G, prices start at $699. All of the new iPads will go on sale March 16.
Schiller announced Apple is keeping the iPad 2 in its product line as well; it will start at $399—no doubt to compete with the Kindle Fire and other cut-rate Android tablets. He spent much of the morning onstage, unveiling new versions of iMovie, Garage Band, and iPhoto software for the new iPad. Each features enhanced editing tools that will make it difficult for photo, video, and music apps from third parties to compete on the new iPad.
“Across the year you are going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation,” Cook said as he retook the stage. “We are just getting started.”