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Apple struts iPad Mini, goes premium with $329 price

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 24, 2012
Apple today unveiled the iPad Mini, a smaller tablet starting at $329 that features a 7.9-in. 1024-x-768-pixel display and can run all existing iPad software without modification.

For all his betting that the iPad Mini will do well, sell "truckloads," he saw the new tablet as a tougher-than-usual road for Apple. "This is going to be their hardest sell in a long time," Moorhead said.

The Mini was one of two tablet debuts today from Apple: It also introduced what it called the "fourth-generation" iPad, which replaces the "new" iPad, nee "iPad 3" that launched in early March.

The new-new iPad boasts the A6X SoC -- the same one that powers the iPhone 5 -- that Schiller claimed doubled both processor and graphics performance. It also uses the new, smaller Lightning connector that also debuted in the iPhone 5.

Prices for the iPad remained the same, with the Wi-Fi model starting at $499 and the cellular device at $629.

Gottheil was surprised by the quick refresh of the iPad.

"As someone who bought [the iPad 3] just days after its launch, I'm a little disappointed," Gottheil said.

Among other announcements today, Apple launched a refreshed 13-in. MacBook Pro with a Retina screen that starts at $1,699 and tops out at $1,999. Like its bigger 15-in. sibling, which appeared last June, the new notebook ditches the optical drive and packs an SSD (sold-state drive) for storage. The 13-in MacBook Pro ships today.

The company also rolled out a revamped Mac Mini that starts at the older price of $599, with a server-configured model beginning at $999.

Finally, Apple introduced new iMac desktops that are thinner, 80% thinner at the edges, in 21.5-in. and 27-in. models. The all-in-ones come sans an optical drive, the first time the line has dumped them.

Schiller highlighted what he called the "Fusion Drive," which combines 128GB of flash storage with a standard platter-based hard drive. OS X and its bundled applications are stored on the flash drive for better performance, but other often-used applications are automatically shifted by OS X Mountain Lion to the faster flash drive.

The iMacs climbed $100 in price, however, with the smaller desktop now running $1,299, while the larger costs $1,799. The 21.5-in. ships in November; the 27-in. in December 2012.

From all signs, today's roll-out was the last for Apple in 2012. CEO Tim Cook, in fact, took time at the end of the event to summarize the year's launches.

How did Apple do?

"I think this was a good product year for Apple," said Gottheil. "They made some missteps in Maps and the iPhone 5, but overall, it was a solid year, and they executed pretty well."

Milanesi agreed. "It doesn't seem like the refreshes we've seen this year are coming out of any fear of the competition," she said "Their 'foot on the gas' isn't because of pressure, but an evolution of what they do with other devices. They're just building on that."



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