Apple unveils new iPads to beat back rivals

ipad air ipadmini 2Apple has unveiled the “iPad Air”, a slimmer version of its top-selling full-size tablet, and a revamped “iPad Mini”, bidding to fend off rivals who have eroded its market dominance.

Apple’s flagship tablet, renamed the iPad Air, will be 20 percent thinner than the current model, and will weigh just 1 pound. The new tablet is equipped with the same advanced processor chip used in the new iPhone 5s smartphone that Apple unveiled last month, which should allow the new iPad to run far more sophisticated programs than the simple games and entertainment apps favored by consumers, and so could appeal to business customers that run heavy-duty applications.

Apple also upgraded its smaller tablet, the iPad Mini, giving it the same high-end processor as the iPad Air, as well as Apple’s famed Retina video display, which should deliver much sharper video images than the current iPad Mini. The new Mini will go on sale later in November, with a $399 starting price, up $70 from the price of the original Mini. Apple will continue to sell the previous Mini model at a reduced price of $299. The iPad Air, meanwhile, will carry a starting price of $499, and go on sale November 1.

“It is going to be a really strong holiday for Apple,” Gartner analyst Van Baker said of the California company’s prospects of sales during America’s important holiday shopping season.

Apple’s original iPad created a global market for tablet computers when it was introduced in 2010, and Apple is still the biggest maker of tablets.

Apple has 32 percent of the global tablet market, down from 60 percent about a year ago, according to industry research firm IDC Corp. Meanwhile, Samsung has soared to win 16 percent of the market, while Asustek Computer Inc., maker of Google’s popular Nexus 7 tablet, Acer Inc., and Chinese personal computer giant Lenovo Group Ltd. have all doubled their sales.

The iPad’s new processor chip could prove to be a major advantage in the long term. It uses the same 64-bit architecture found in desktop computer chips. Oh said the tablet might be capable of advanced business computing tasks, like running 3-D engineering software or high-end video editing programs.

Along with the iPad announcement, Apple showed off its new Mac Pro high-end workstation, the most advanced computer in the Macintosh line. The new machine, with a starting price of $2,999, features a radical new cylindrical design, dual graphics processor chips, and flash memory chips instead of a mechanical hard drive. Apple also revealed upgrades of its MacBook Pro laptop line, as well as Mavericks, the latest edition of the company’s Mac OS X operating system software. Mavericks will be available at no charge to Mac computer users.

Apple shares fell 1.5 percent to end at $519.87 but were regaining lost ground in after-market trades.

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