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Apple refreshes, renames iPad as 'Air,' goes Retina on the Mini

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 23, 2013
Whole host of announcements, from new iPads and cheaper MacBook Pro laptops to free OS X Mavericks upgrade

Instead, the experts concurred, Apple again stressed its strategic vision with the pricing of the Retina iPad Mini and last year's tablet. "Apple has decided to pay attention to margin rather than share, and accept that they will lose some share with these prices," said Gottheil. "That's clearly a strategic decision."

Many viewed the pricing of the iPhone 5C in the same light last month. Ben Thompson, an independent analyst based in Taiwan, made that case eloquently, positing that Apple's pricing model for the iPhone 5C was a reaffirmation of the Cupertino, Calif., company's brand positioning rather than, as most others expected, an attempt to go low and grab market share.

So it was today.

"At the end of the day, it's the brand experience that they deliver on top of these devices, the software and services and app innovation, that separates Apple from its competitors," said Thomas Husson, an analyst with Forrester Research, in an interview. "What differentiates Apple in the space is not necessarily hardware innovation, but the value and benefit to consumers of the entire ecosystem. And the pricing today speaks to the premium position that they want to maintain."

Apple also revealed the delivery date of OS X 10.9, aka Mavericks, which it will release today. The upgrade will be free, a first not only for Apple, but also for any major commercial operating system vendor. "Today, we announce a new era," said Craig Federighi, who leads OS X and iOS engineering at Apple and replaced Cook on stage for a few minutes to tout Mavericks. "Free is good."

Apple launched OS X Mavericks today, and for the first time, didn't charge users for the operating system upgrade. (Image: Apple.)

Last year's OS X Mountain Lion upgrade was priced at $19.99, and the year before that Apple sold Lion for $29.99. Speculation about Apple making its Mac operating system free have circulated on occasion, notably in 2012 as rival Microsoft was readying Windows 8.

Federighi cited improvements in battery life — up to an hour on existing hardware — memory usage and performance from OS X 10.9, as well as new apps, including iOS' Maps and iBooks, continuing Apple's practice of seeding Macs with software that originated on the iPad or iPhone. "This one's a doozy," said Federighi.

Earlier in the event, Schiller also quickly spun through a refresh of the MacBook Pro notebook line, available today, that incorporate Intel's latest Core processor, code-named "Haswell," to sync the higher-priced laptops with the MacBook Air, which received the same chips this summer.

Apple, like every personal computer maker, has been hit by the slump in sales, and reacted today by lowering prices of the MacBook Pro models by $200. The 13-in. Retina-equipped MacBook Pro now starts at $1,299, a 13% price cut; the 15-in. models now start at $1,999, a 9% discount.

Schiller wrapped up by disclosing the price of the cylindrical Mac Pro, its radically-redesigned power desktop: The system will start at $2,999, and go on sale in December.

 

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