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Apple's new iPads and Retina iMac: 'Empty calories' or nutritious adds to portfolio?

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 17, 2014
With selective price cuts, Apple preps for holidays with a phone-tablet-PC line-up that covers all the bases, say analysts.

Previous-generation models will still be sold, said Apple, at prices $100 lower than the newest. A 2013 16GB iPad Air, then, costs $399, while last year's iPad Mini with Retina was reduced to $299.

In another cost-cutting move, Apple will also continue to sell 2012's original, lower-resolution iPad Mini at $249, a drop of 17%. Milanesi focused on that new lower price, and argued that faced with a decision between, say, a $199 7-in. Android tablet, one from Samsung, perhaps, consumers would instead select the $249 iPad Mini because of the Apple brand and its vaunted app inventory. "It's not a question but that the iPad is the tablet in peoples' minds," Milanesi said.

The iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 will go on sale next week -- Apple did not provide a date, but in the past it has launched new devices at retail on the second Friday after their unveilings -- and pre-orders will begin tomorrow, Oct. 17.

Schiller also trotted out a new iMac -- confirming another recent rumor -- that boasts a higher-resolution display of 5120-by-2880-pixels, what he called "Retina 5K." That iMac, available only in the 27-in. size, costs $2,499, and ships today, Schiller said.

As it did when it debuted the first Retina MacBook Pro, Apple added the Retina 5K iMac at the top of the desktop line's band, leaving the 2013 models at the same $1,799 (27-in.) and $1,099 (21.5-in.) prices. If Apple follows the refresh trajectory with the iMac that it used with the MacBook Pro, it will eventually replace all but one entry-level non-Retina iMac with machines sporting high-resolution screens.

Apple also revealed the delivery date of OS X 10.10, aka Yosemite, which it will release today. The upgrade will be free, as was last year's Mavericks, and be available via the Mac App Store as a 5.2GB download.

One of Yosemite's most anticipated features, however, won't be ready until Monday, Oct. 20, said Craig Federighi, who leads iOS and OS X development. That's when Apple will release iOS 8.1, which will complete Continuity, a set of task hand-off tools that lets users start a job on an iOS device then pick it up on a Mac, or vice versa.

Other announcements included a revamped Mac Mini, the display-less computer that has held down the very bottom of the Mac's pricing structure. Apple lowered the price of the entry-level Mac Mini to $499, a 17% cut.

It was unlikely that the same 17% reduction of the iPad Mini was a coincidence, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with More Insights & Strategy. "I viewed [today's announcements] as doing two things, and one was to get in shape for the holidays," said Moorhead. "Apple did that in terms of price points with the new prices for the iPad Mini and the Mac Mini."


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