I'm slogging from home this morning so I thought I'd stream today's Apple event on my Apple TV, just because I could. Forget all the marketing fluff about Apple's past success, here's the news on new products:
New version of iBooks, featuring continuous scrolling.
New 13-inch MacBook Pro with "Retina Display." Also, 20 percent thinner, flash drives.
New souped up Mac Mini starting at $599. Fusion drive option.
New, much thinner, iMac. Fusion drive option. No built-in optical drive.
Apple Fusion Drive: 128GB Flash plus 1 or 3 TB hard drive. OS X automatically transfers most commonly used apps and data to faster Flash drive. Cool.
New iBooks Author with tons of new features for text book publishers.
4th Generation iPad. Faster A6X processer, doubles CPU and GPU performance. Facetime HD. Faster WiFi. LTE. Same pricing. iPad 2 remains at $399.
Surprise: 7.9-inch iPad Mini. 7.2mm thin, 0.68 lbs. Same 1024x768 resolution as iPad 2. Equal to or better specs than iPad2. Facetime HD. 10-hour battery life. Starts at $329.
I know. I know. I'm an Apple fanboy who owns a few shares in my IRA. So don't trust anything I say. But I think there were some pretty significant product announcements today that should have the competition somewhat worried.
I expect the press to focus on the new iPad mini, and whether or not the $329 price is aggressive enough to compete with cheaper Amazon and Android alternatives. Maybe. Maybe not. But I think the accelerated update cycle on the iPad is just as important. The updated iPad keeps it out ahead of the rest of the pack, and should bump up sales through Christmas. If you really want Windows 8 RT, I guess you'll go with the Microsoft Surface. But there's no compelling reason other than OS preference.
Also, the slew of Mac announcements should help Apple to continue to chip away at PC market share. I'm particularly impressed with the Fusion Drive, which if it works as advertised, is a great feature. And those new iMacs look gorgeous.
As for the iPad mini, the star of this morning's show, it's essentially an iPad 2 in a smaller package, at a $70 discount. It looks to me that Apple is making a play for customers who are attracted more to a smaller form factor rather than going after those coveting a smaller price. Apple clearly could have sacrificed a little margin to hit the $299 price point, but it didn't. Though it wouldn't surprise me if there was a steeper than usual discount for bulk educational sales.
Apple and Amazon just don't seem to be playing in the same market at the moment, so I'm not sure this will have much of an impact on Kindle sales. But I'm pretty sure Microsoft's hurdles just got a little higher today.