On a brisk, foggy Tuesday morning in San Francisco, Apple unveiled the iPad Air, a new tablet which is thinner and faster than the previous devices, in a bid to consolidate its grip on the high end of the tablet market.
In what it called the “lightest full-sized tablet in the world”, Apple said it had a “dramatically different experience” but the new tablet did not include the fingerprint reader that some had expected after it was introduced for the latest iPhone. The company also added Retina Display to its iPad mini and cut the cost of the original smaller tablet to $299, the cheapest price for an iPad yet.
Revealing a whole host of updates from mobile apps to its Mac OS update, it announced that it would now offer its software for free. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said the move was “turning the industry on its ear”.
Tim Bradshaw and Hannah Kuchler followed the launch for the FT’s Apple liveblog as Tim Cook took to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, is excited but not giving much away:
As usual, people have been parsing the invite for any clue about what the secretive company could have to offer today. After the release of the iPhone 5S and 5C last month, the invite’s colourful circles were interpreted as an indication of the jazzy 5C colours and its silver circles as a sign to look out for a fingerprint reader. Clues few understood at the time. The invite for this launch is covered in colourful leaves…
See here for a history of Apple invites:
You can watch the Apple event live yourself – from an Apple device, of course.
It’s already been a busy day in the tablet market. Microsoft’s Surface 2 goes on sale today and earlier, Dan Thomas covered Nokia’s launch of its first Windows slate in Abu Dhabi. He writes:
Most analysts are likely to be impressed by Nokia’s first tablet, even if it is similar to the devices marketed by Microsoft under its Surface brand, using the same wide screen version of the Windows “tiled” operating system.
Nokia hopes that it has made a difference by adding greater connectivity and “companionship” with its smartphones. The tablet will link with its Lumia smartphones, for example through near field communication technology that will allow pictures to be swapped.
The new products also exploit Nokia’s access to Microsoft’s Office suite of applications, such as Excel and Word, with a keyboard offered as part of the wrap around screen cover. The tablet will also offer software to edit video and use Nokia’s bespoke mapping services, alongside other new applications.
A Nokia spokesman said that most people use tablets such as iPads for entertainment or as a web browser, whereas the Lumia would be designed as much as a device for work to replace a laptop. There will be four colours available for the tablet, which will be priced at about $499.
Read Dan’s analysis of the Nokia Lumia tablet here.
Analyst group eMarketer has some scene-setting stats ahead of the launch:
Apple’s share of US tablet users is expected to fall to 54.5 per cent in 2013, from 58.9 per cent last year and 83% in 2011.
More than a quarter of Americans used tablets at least monthly last year, according to eMarketer. This year, eMarketer estimates that 40 per cent of Americans will use a tablet device once a month.
eMarketer expects there to be 11.8m iPad users in the UK this year, representing 18.5 per cent of the country’s total population or 59 per cent of tablet users.
Apple is likely to reiterate that its priority is usage and customer satisfaction, not market share, but the fact remains that more consumers are buying Android-based tablets than iPads these days, as we wrote a few days ago:
More than a third of American adults now own a tablet, the Pew Research Center said on Monday – remarkable for a product that barely existed three years ago. That figure is even higher among high-income families: more than half of households earning $75,000 a year or more own tablets, up from a quarter a year ago.
“Mobile connectivity continues to grow and its impact is much broader than business stories about which computer makers are selling the most units,” says Kristen Purcell, associate director of Pew’s Internet Project.
“We see mobile connectivity affecting everything from the way people get news and learn to the way they take care of their health and the way they share their lives through social media. It’s been a rapid, broad reaching change that will likely continue for some time.”
And we’re off – opening with a video about Apple’s design philosophy… “The first thing we ask is, what do we want people to feel?” It looks like the same black-and-white animation we saw at the iPhone unveiling last month.
Here’s Tim Cook in black untucked shirt, blue jeans and black leather shoes. So far, so familiar… “I really love that video,” he says. “I wanted to open with it this morning because it does such an incredible job of talking about our values. It reflects the unique way that Apple creates what we believe are the very best products in the world.”
Mr Cook reminds us that Apple sold 9m iPhones in its launch weekend – he gets applause for that, although it’s not a new figure. Here we go into a montage video of the launch at the London Apple Store in Covent Garden… I could have scripted this so far it’s so formulaic. Let’s hope there are some more surprises to come in what is likely to be a two-hour event.
Over 200m devices were running iOS 7 in five days – the biggest and fastest software upgrade ever. As of today 64 per cent of Apple devices are running iOS 7.
More stats: Apple says it’s had 20m listeners to iTunes Radio – listening to over 1bn songs in the US in the last month. More than 1m apps in the App Store and 60bn cumulative downloads, earning developers over $13bn (so that’s $5.5bn for Apple too).
Mr Cook says that Apple’s competitors are confused about the future of the PC, “chasing after netbooks” and producing tablet-PC hybrids. “We still believe deeply in this category and we’re not slowing down on the innovation,” he says.
Here comes Craig Federighi to talk about Mac OS X Mavericks.
We’re going through some of Mavericks’ previously announced improvements to Macs’ battery handling, multiple displays, search and social integrations.
Demo time is also funny time, apparently. Craig – nickname Hair Force One – replies to a message notification from his wife – “Hair Force Two” – ribbing him about his untucked shirt.
“I for one look forward to working in outer space,” he says as he shows off the new Apple campus designs.
Mr Federighi is great onstage but it’s hard to get investors excited about Macs these days – they’re a small portion of revenue next to the iPhone and iPad. This seems more for the benefit of those customers watching on the livestream.
We want to get all Mac users the latest technologies and robust security, Craig says. “We’ve reengineered our development process so we can put up regular releases that renew your Mac. Upgrading your OS is as easy as downloading an app.”
“Today we’re going to revolutionise pricing. The days of spending hundreds of dollars to get the most out of your computer are gone. Today we are announcing that Mavericks is free.”
iMacs and Macbook Pros dating back to 2007 will be eligible for the free upgrade, which is available from today. And here comes Phil Schiller to talk about Macbooks…
Costs for Mac software upgrades have been falling over the years. The OS X Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion upgrades in the last two years were $20.
Our first new product of the morning: a new 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display and 128GB of storage starts at $1,299, a $100 price cut. Its 15-inch cousin starts at $1,999, with bumped-spec Macbook Airs starting at $999. That’s it for Apple’s notebooks – now we go on to the Mac Pro
The black, cylindrical Mac Pro was first shown off at the WWDC event in June with a memorable line from Mr Schiller: “Can’t innovate any more my ass!”
But we don’t yet know how much it will cost… Phil is going over the specs, which include up to 1TB of flash storage and extremely fast graphics processing. This is a high-end product for professional users – and Apple fanatics with money to burn.
The new Mac Pro will cost $2,999 for 37.GHz quad-core Xeon, 12GB of DRAM, 256GB. It will be available in December.
Mac Pro, lest we forget, is more environmentally friendly than its predecessor and Made in USA. “It’s going to be assembled in the US. More than 2,000 people in 20 states have been helping us to build this incredible new machine.”
A video talking about it features a rare appearance from Jeff Williams, Apple’s operating chief. The video is all shiny brushed metal, robot arms, laser-etched text and elaborate machining tools, with happy factory employees wearing sky-blue overalls.
That’s it for the Mac. Here comes Eddy Cue to talk about apps. And yes, like his colleagues, he’s also in an untucked, dark blue shirt – with natty white cuffs this time.
We’re talking about iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band updates. You can create photo books from iPhoto (although I’m pretty sure you’ve been able to do that for a while, at least on the desktop version). Your film editing projects can now be shared across devices using iCloud. Garage Band lets you meld together more tracks in your virtual music studio. We’re all rocking out to the demo of the latter – those of us that aren’t liveblogging that is…
iLife will be free with any new purchase of an iDevice.
Meanwhile, you can check if your ageing Macbook is compatible with the free Mavericks upgrade here: https://www.apple.com/osx/specs/
Now onto iWork – Apple’s office suite has been redesigned for iOS 7 and for Mac OS too. “Full file compatibility – open a document on any of your devices or platforms.”
The demo of multi-user collaboration in Pages is using enormous photos of Eddy Cue to create a music poster. Mr Cue, Apple’s software and services chief, is cringing at the side of the stage… He didn’t look as though he was expecting that one.
Oh, maybe he was – he’s playing along now, saying his high-school stage name was “Cue Ball”.
“Wow is all I can say,” Eddy says.
Cue: “You know what’s coming – we’re taking all of these productivity apps and making them available for free and of course, you can download them today… The biggest updates ever and they’re all free… Today is the biggest thing ever for apps.”
Tim Cook is back on the stage: “These are incredibly rich apps and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what you can do with them – and now they’re all free. We are turning the industry on its ear. But that’s not why we’re doing it. We’re doing it because we want our customers to have the latest software and greatest new features.”
Now: an hour in – we’re onto iPad. Mr Cook is going through the naysayers to the original iPad at launch in 2010.
“It’s not going to replace netbooks,” says one quote . “Who remembers netbooks?” says Cook. iPad has gone on to become one of Apple’s most successful products, with 170m iPads sold as of earlier this month.
But now everyone is making a tablet, he says.
“Even some of the doubters are now making them. But regardless of what you might hear or read about how many are bought or sold or activated, iPad is used more than any of the rest.” iPad is used 4 times more than all the other tablets put together, Mr Cook says, without providing a source for the stat.
iPad has greater usage because it combines “hardware, amazing software and intuitive services into an experience that no one else can match,” Cook says, with 475,000 apps on the App Store.
“We designed iPad to be the best tool for the things that you do most often,” Cook says, but he’s showing a video with the more unexpected ways that it’s being used – wind turbine monitoring and farming a field of corn. There are images of people shooting videos of ice skating, hot air balloon flights and underwater shipwrecks, warehouse management, DJs and stop-motion animation filming. A man photographs the Great Wall of China.
“We want to help our customers create even more amazing stories because we know this is just the beginning for iPad,” Tim Cook says, and here’s the next generation of iPad. Phil Schiller takes to the stage.
“Today we think we have the biggest step yet in delivering the vision that is iPad,” says Schiller. Here’s a video of the new iPad – “thinner, lighter, more powerful than ever before and incredibly excitingly new in so many ways that it deserves a new name” – “iPad Air”.
The new 10-inch iPad Air is 20 per cent thinner than its predecessor and weighs 1 pound, compared with 1.4 pounds of its predecessor – “the lightest full-sized tablet in the world”, Schiller claims. “When you hold it it will be a dramatically different experience.”
It runs the new 64-bit A7 chip from the iPhone 5s and M7 motion co-processor, giving double the graphics and CPU performance of the previous generation.
iPad Air comes in silver and white, and space grey and black. It starts at the same $499 price for WiFi, $629 with cellular connection, shipping November 1 on a long list of countries, including China from the outset for the first time.
The iPad 2 is still going to be on sale for $399 – the margins on that device must be pretty fantastic by now.
Here’s Apple design chief Sir Jonathan Ive in a video talking about the new iPad. The battery is smaller but with no loss in battery life, he says. “There’s a simplicity to it but there is nothing precious about it,” he says, touting its durability. “It’s meant to be taken places … and really used.”
Apple is also adding the Retina Display and 64-bit chip to the iPad mini, with expanded LTE support for more operators around the world when it ships in November.
The Retina mini will be more expensive than its predecessor at $399, but the lower-resolution device will fall to $299 – “the lowest price yet for an iPad”.
There are also new cases for the iPad.
Tim Cook is back. “What an incredible period for innovation in new products,” he says, recapping this autumn’s releases: iOS 7, new iPhones, the Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks, iWork and iLIfe upgrades, and the new iPads.
The new iPad ad focuses on a pencil – a symbol of the productivity benefits of the device but also its thin profile.
“This is what we mean by designed by Apple in California,” says Cook, back onstage.
That’s it for the Apple onstage event – stay with us for reaction and a hands-on demo of the new iPads.
Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis is sitting beside me here with his reaction to the new iPads:
“No real surprises – the [price] spread of the mini is not a big surprise but the lack of the fingerprint scanner points away from it being a big strategic move. They could have put it in the big iPad if they wanted to. It creates a bit more of a price window underneath Apple for 7-inch tablets. But this is divergence – the Nexus 7 was already significantly cheaper than the iPad and wasn’t selling that well. Apple don’t need to be competitive on price because there are two completely different markets for tablets. Apple still doesn’t face strong competition for the vision of what Steve Jobs wanted a tablet to be.”
As is traditional after a product launch, Apple shares fell as soon as the presentation wrapped up. The stock was trading at about 0.4 per cent lower throughout the presentation but is now down by about 1.5 per cent.
The new naming is interesting. “iPad Air” takes after the cheaper end of Apple’s Macbook range – perhaps paving the way for a high-spec “iPad Pro” sometime in the future?
While all the attention is on how cheap the old iPad minis are, it is worth noting that Apple is very much still catering for the high end of the market.
The iPad Air site is live – if you want to explore the features for yourself, go here.
Notable by its absence today: any update to the Apple TV… Guess the rumours of Apple’s big assault on the living room live to fight another day. That will come as a relief to Sony and Microsoft, who are putting out new versions of their Playstation and Xbox consoles next month.
Also absent: a fingerprint reader which some thought might be part of the new iPad after it was revealed in the iPhone 5S. And no gold: also a 5S touch which could have made the iPad Air even more bling.
Here’s how the new iPad lines up against the other tablets on the market.
Some people are already thinking about the next product:
Apple, no stranger to transforming industries, has decided to give away its software for free – making life tougher for rivals like Microsoft.
UK pricing for the new iPads:
- £399 for 16GB iPad Air, £499 including cellular
- Retina iPad mini starts at £319, or £419 including cellular
- non-Retina iPad mini goes down to £249
S&P Capital analyst Scott Kessler picked up this nugget on the iPad’s slowing growth in the run-up to this announcement:
“Based on a comment from the keynote, we think Apple sold around 15m iPads in the September quarter, sequentially flat.”
That seems to be below where other analysts had expected it to be.
Flipboard chief executive Mike McCue was one of Apple’s invited guests today and seemed impressed by the new line-up, especially the new Keynote software for iPad.
“When you can hold it in one hand it goes into a whole new realm of usability,” he said of the lighter iPad Air.
Apple’s share price is now down less than 0.5 per cent for the day. With investors’ usual “sell the news” mentality around Apple product launches, that’s almost an endorsement, but it may also reflect the fact that most of what was announced today was already priced into the stock.