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Mini me: A smartly dressed Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, holds the iPad Mini.

2:13PM: It’s wrapping up. The tech highlights: a new A6X chip for the iPad 4G and the Fusion Drive in the iMac. 

And that’s it. I’m off for a hands-on with the new products. Thanks for reading!

2:07PM: The price: $329 for 16 GB with Wi-Fi. This will probably be a very popular holiday gift. They’ll start taking pre-orders this Friday for the iPad Mini. The Wi-Fi version will start shipping a week later, then the Wi-Fi-plus-cellular version two weeks later.

“This is an amazing new addition to our iPad family,” he says. We are watching the new iPad Mini ad. Aww, it’s a “Heart and Soul” duet on an iPad and iPad Mini. The audience here really likes that ad, apparently.

Tim Cook comes out yet again and Schiller goes away. “It’s very cool,” he says of iPad Mini, and he reminds us that earlier this year they told us we’d see some increidble innovation from Apple. “We think that we’ve kept our promise, and we hope that you agree,” he says.

He recaps: they shipped Mountain Lion, iOS 6, redesigned iPods, a new iPhone, refreshed the notebook lineup, announced a new iMac, earlier this year showed 3rd-gen iPad, and now 4th-gen iPad and iPad Mini.

“Yes, it has been a incredible year. With all of these new products and all of the applications and cloud services, this has been a truly prolific year of innovation for apple,” he says. “We hope that you love these products as much as we loved creating them.”

He is thanking the teams at Apple that created all these things.

2:04PM: Ah, another video to watch, with Jony Ive talking first. He’s so smart-sounding. They’re showing various people walking around using it: a doctor, a lady in cute sweater, etc.

Ive says: “there is inherent loss in just reducing a product in size. What we did was we went back to the very beginning, and we took the time to design a product that was a concentration of, not a reduction of, the original.”

He talks about the unibody; the juncture where the glass meets the back case. It has a diamond-cut chamfer on the screen. The new cover is interesting. They eliminated the exterior aluminum hinge, so it kind of just hugs the iPad Mini. 

A smaller motherboard was designed to house the A5 chip, apparently. Ok, the video is done and Schiller is back.

1:57PM: Oh, snap! He’s showing an Android-powered Nexus 7 on the left and iPad Mini on the right on screen. He’s comparing the bezels around the display–iPad Mini is aluminum. “Theirs is made of plastic, it’s thicker. In fact, the entire Android product is thicker and heavier than iPad Mini even though it has a smaller display”. Android has 7” screen but iPad has 7.9”. To think Apple and Google were once friends.

Phil points out that the overall display on the iPad mini is 29.6” vs 21.9 for Nexus 7. Now he’s showing the Guggenheim site on both tablets. It’s about 49 percent larger on the iPad Mini, he says. And that was in portrait mode. In landscape mode, it’s 67 percent larger on the iPad Mini.

Oh, burn–he says Android has phone applications stretched up, not tablet applications. He’s now showing the eBay and Pandora apps. And Vimeo; TripAdvisor; the list goes on and on. But perhaps he won’t be show mapping apps?

Let’s go over the tech.

It has the old A5 chip, LTE for the cellular version. FaceTime HD. It has a 5 megapixel iSight camera that does 1080p video. 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. A lightning connector. The same 10 hour battery as on 4th-generation iPad. Actually, I’d expect higher battery life.

“It is every inch an iPad,” he says. It’s certainly pretty cute.

1:54PM: He holds it in one hand on stage, a white one. I looks Kindle Fire-sized. It’s 7.2 mm thin, comes in black with slate back, and white with silver back. 

What is the screen size? this was a hard question for the team, he says. They wanted it to be able to run without having developers do more work to have it run the existing iPad apps, and also have it be super usable.

It is smaller, but not tiny: 7.9 inches at the diagonal. The big one, for reference, is 9.7 inches. The resolution is 1024x768. So all the software created for iPad will work unchanged on iPad Mini. And works in landscape and portrait positions, of course.

Phil, if you don’t know, is into music, and now he’s talking about using GarageBand on it.  He speculates you will enjoy playing racing games and drawing on it. Tablets that are smaller than the iPad have failed, he says.

1:51PM: What else can we do to help customers find more uses for iPad, he asks?

Oh hello, tiny iPad!

On screen, we see a smaller iPad emerge. People clap, because they are excited for small things. “I think we can tell by your excitement you know what this is. This is iPad Mini,” he says. It is a totally new design, not a shrunken-down iPad. You can hold it in one hand, he says.

1:46PM: Earlier this year they announced the iPad 3, Cook reminds us. “But we’re not taking our foot off the gas. We’ve got some really cool stuff to show you,” he says.

Ah, the return of Phil!

Phil says it’s so incredible that we’re here to talk about the fourth-generation iPad since the 3G one came out just earlier this year. “This fourth generation iPad, it is a powerhouse,” he says. 

Oh, nice, it has a new chip: the apple A6X chip, which delivers even faster performance, he says. 

“We were already so far ahead of the competition–this just, i can’t even see them in the rearview mirror,” he quips. 

It has double the graphics performance of the last chip. Also: a next-generation image signal processor.

Twice CPU power; same 10 hours of battery life; updating the faceTime camera to FT HD. The cellular version has LTE with “greatly expanded coverage,” he says. Wi-Fi is now up to twice as fast, he says. They added a Lightning connector. Fortunately, also a bunch of new cables: They’ll convert lightning to HDMI, VGA, USB and more.  

The new iPad will come in black and white, and it starts with same configuration as last one: $499 for 16GB with Wi-Fi; $629 for Wi-Fi and Cellular at $16 GB per month. “So the third generation iPad was the best tablet in the world, the fourth generation iPad just extends that lead,” he says. 

1:43PM: Wait, there’s more to it than just love. Apps! Connectivity! “One of the things that’s so rewarding and so amazing to us is how quickly iPad has been embraced in education,” he says. Around the world educators and students “find iPad to be an incredible learning tool.” Cook is showing a quote from the superintendent of a Texas school district who is super into the iPad. 

“We saw this early on,” Cook says about the iPad being useful in education.

iBook Textbooks are now available for 80 percent of the U.S. high school core curriculum, he says. Over 2,500 classrooms in US use iBooks textbooks now. And it’s not just the large three publishers that are using this, he says.

New today: the latest version of iBooks Author, which lets publishers make digital textbooks. This version includes the ability for publishers to directly insert rendered mathematical expressions, multi-touch widgets, and easy book updates. 

iBooks Author is a free app download on the Mac App Store. In addition to education, iPad is taking the business market by storm, Cook says. It’s on boats! Used by TV reporters! 94 percent of Fortune 500 companies are testing or deploying iPads, he says.

1:40PM: Now Cook is talking iPad. Two weeks ago they sold their 100 millionth iPad. Egads again, that is a lot of iPads. That’s in 2.5 years, remember, which is a very short amount of time for so many iPads!

Cook says they sold more iPads in the June quarter than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC lineup. And shows a chart showing Acer, Dell, Lenovo, HP paling in comparison to iPad sales.

iPad accounts for 91 percent of tablet Web traffic he says. “So why is iPad so phenomenally successful?” he asks. Apparently, the reason is that people *really* love their iPads. We are now talking about all the things people love about the iPad. Love, love, love.

1:35PM: The iMac includes FaceTime HD camera, dual microphones, two speakers that he claims sound better. It’s also 8 pounds lighter than the last iMac

Innard porn! He is showing us the insides. It has an Intel quad-core i5 or i7 processor, up to 32 GB of RAM, up to 768 GB of Flash memory, and more. On the back you get standard ports, including 3 USB ports, ThunderBolt. You can choose between having an HDD or Flash in the past, and now they also have what they call the Apple Fusion Drive

What’s that now?? Well, its 128 GB of flash storage, plus a 1 TB or 3 TB HDD, all fused into a single volume to give faster reads and writes. And it all works automatically, he says.

How, you ask? How? Phil will tell us!

So as you use your computer, the Fusion Drive figures out what you use the most and what will benefit from being stored with flash, and what’s best to be saved with the HDD

“You just use it, it works,” he says. So using Aperture to import photos would depend more on flash than HDD, since that is faster. “For those that are still suck in the past, yes you can still get an optical drive” (it plugs in). 

It’s $1299 for 21.5 inch iMac with 2.7 GHz processor. They’ll start shipping next month, Schiller says. $1799 for a 27-incher, which will start shipping in December. This iMac uses up to 50 percent less power when sitting idle, he says.

Adios, Phil… he is walking off stage, and Tim Cook is back. They’re kind of matching today with the dark-blue shirts and dark pants. A nice touch.

1:29PM: Now it is time for an iMac update. Funny how the invitation to this event made me think this was going to be an event with just one product announcement. Anyway, the iMac. We are looking at the original Bondi Blue iMac. And a pretty graphic showing us all seven generations of it behind Schiller’s head on the screen. Today we get to see the next-generation iMac.

Oh la la! It is so skinny! So silver and black! Which one would expect, but still. The audience claps–people here seem very impressed.

“It is stunning from every side. Edge-to-edge glass,” he says. Oh wait, we get to see one in person. He pulls a black sheet off an iMac that’s on a pedestal on stage. It is quite a skinny computer. It clearly has a gorgeous display, which one would expect.

“There’s an entire computer in here!” he says. We’ll, you’d certainly hope so. “That edge is 5 millimeters thin. And it is 80 percent thiner than the previous generation,” he says.

The engineering team used friction stir welding, whatever that is. “The actual molecules of the aluminum are merged together to create one piece that is super strong and virtually seamless,” he says. It really does makes the previous one look a bit fat and sad.

First the team engineered a new display that is 5 mm thinner than the previous one. The previous one had a 2 mm air gap between display and front glass, and they removed that by laminating display directly to the glass. “This was a huge challenge. We’ve never laminated a display this large to glass,” he says. They also removed the optical drive and reengineered the insides to make it so thin. There are 2 display sizes: 27-inch, 2560x1440 and 21.5-inch 1920x1080. Fully laminated also makes text and graphics “look like they’re sitting right on top of the glass,” he says. There is an anti-reflective coating on the display as well. Plasma deposition, “allows us to apply the anti-reflective coating down to a nanometer thickness,” he says. You get 75 percent less reflection than on the previous iMac.

1:27PM: Time to talk about Mac Mini (“you knew there would be something called Mini in this presentation,” he quips.). The Mini has been updated on the inside, and it comes with a dual or quad Intel Core i5 or i7 “Ivy Bridge” processor, Bluetooth 4.0, up to 16 GB of RAM, and more. It comes with a 500 GB hard drive for $599. There’s also a $999 version with a terabyte-sized hard drive. Both of these start shipping today. 

“Mac Mini is still the world’s most energy-efficient desktop,” he boasts.

1:24PM: We’re watching an ad for the laptop. “For the Pro in all of us” is the tagline. Clever, Apple. “It’s powerful, super thin and light, and customers are really going to love it,” Schiller says. 

1:19PM: He shows the display in comparison to an HD TV. It’s would say it looks like an awesome display, but I’m looking at an overhead projection of it, so it’s hard to tell! It has a FaceTime, an HD camera, a back-lit keyboard (gotta say, I love mine).

Let’s look inside! Oh, lots of black and silver. Also… Intel dual Core i5 or i7 “Ivy Bridge” processors, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM, up to 7 hours of battery life. It ships with Mountain Lion, of course. Up to 750 GB of memory included. It has Airplay to connect it with your TV. Oooh.. and Powernap–while the notebook is asleep it can automatically update contacts and other things. Starts with 2.5 GHz dual-core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB flash memory, for $1699, as widely expected. It starts shipping today. Now Schiller is pimping the new Macbook’s environmental pecs – Energy Star 5.2, etc. Nothing very surprising.

1:15PM: It’s Mac time! Mac is outgrowing PC market, and he says a key reason for this is it tends to be named #1 in customer satisfaction and reliability. It is the #1 desktop and notebook in the U.S., Cook says.

“We’re really pleased with all of ;the momentum of the Mac. But we are not standing still. We are going to continue innovating with the Mac (and Phil Schiller is coming on stage now to show us through it). Unlike last time we saw him, Phil’s shirt is tucked in, thankfully. He’s wearing a navy dress shirt and jeans. 

He says today is a big day for the Mac. Starts talking about the Mac lineup. “You might not know that our number-one selling notebook is actually the 13-inch MacBook Pro.”

Hah, I’m so on trend! That’s my personal computer. 

Oh wait, he’s going to show us something new. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro. It looks like the existing one, but it’s 0.75 inches thin (20 percent thinner). It weighs 3.6 pounds. “That’s almost a full pound lighter than the previous generation.”

Man, my laptop is going to develop a complex when it sees this one. It includes 2 Thunderbolt ports, USB 3, Magsafe port. Yes, the rumors were right: It has a Retina display: 2560 x 1600 resolution. Four times the number of pixels of the previous one (4.1 million pixels). So it’s got the second-highest resolution on a notebook display (behind their 15-inch model). It also looks like they took out the optical drive. 

1:13PM: Today they are announcing a new version of iBooks that includes a continuous scrolling reading option. So you can scroll forever, basically. Or at least until you reach the end of the book. Books are also integrated with iCloud, and there is a tap-to-share a quote from a book on Facebook, Twitter, etc. They’re supporting more languages in iBook as well, it sounds like.

“The pages turn from left to right, just like you’d expect–if you’re japanese, that is,” he says. Audience giggles.

1:10PM: Cook is now talking about the App Store. He says last month they mentioned there were over 700,000 apps in the Store, and the number is growing. They also have 275,000 plus iPad specific apps.

Another milestone: customers have now downloaded 35 billion apps from the App Store. “This is jaw-dropping,” he says.

They have now paid $6.5 billion to developers for their apps. Cook mentions iBooks, talks up its features (virtual bookshelf, tap to show the iBook Store, etc). They now have over 1.5 million books available. (I’m presuming this is both free and paid books). 400 million books have been downloaded since the inception of the store.

1:08PM: Cook is back on stage now. He mentions the new iPods they brought out last month as well –the new iPod Touch and iPod Nano. “These are off to a fantastic start. The reception has just been fantastic,” he says. Sales are “fantastic.”

“Together with the rest of the iPod lineup we’ve already sold over 3 million units,” Cook says. He mentions iOS 6, and says “our teams work really, really hard to make sure as many devices as possible are upgradeable to the latest operating system. I’m pleased to tell you that in just over 1 month we have 200 million devices running iOS 6.”

Wow, that’s pretty impressive. “This is the fastest upgrade rate of any software in history that we’re aware of.”

Cook is now talking about some features of Mountain Lion, which, frankly, I’m not that interested in. Customers have put 125 million documents in the cloud (via Apple) in the past year. Customers have sent over 300 billion iMessage messages over the past year. Egads. That’s 28,000 being sent per second, he points out

I admit I am contributing to this number quite often.

1:05PM: Cooks is now showing us one of those very enthusiastic iPhone store videos. Big crowds! People using their iPads! Employees taking iPhones out of boxes! swelling music! Folks cheering and grinning. We get it, Tim, it’s the kind of enthusiasm you only see for Apple products. Customers ecstatic with their new iphones. Older folks checking out the new device. A deaf person being helped by an employee, people being interviewed on the news in Germany. Oh look, a dog in the apple store, shaking an employees hand! It goes on…

1:00PM: Hello, and welcome, everyone. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook just walked onstage, wearing a blue shirt and grey slacks (in case you care about that sort of thing). We’re starting with iPhone updates. Cook says the iPhone 5 got off to a ‘tremendous start”. “we sold out the first weekend, selling more than 5 million units,” he says. “This was fantastic. this is the most iPhones ever sold int he opening weekend and the most phones ever sold in an opening weekend.”

Apple is widely expected to unveil a new, smaller, cheaper iPad—dubbed by many the “iPad Mini”—at an invitation-only event today in San Jose, California. I will be live-blogging the event, which is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. local time, paying particular attention to the technology side of Apple’s announcements.

Invitations that Apple sent out to the event last Tuesday stated “We’ve got a little more to show you” and showed the company’s apple logo against a rainbow-colored background. Industry watchers took this as the latest sign that the iPad and iPhone maker is entering the midsize-tablet market, which is dominated by Android-running devices like Amazon.com’s Kindle Fire.

The smaller of Amazon’s two Kindle Fire models features a touch screen that measures 7 inches at the diagonal and starts at a price of $159—much cheaper and smaller than the existing iPad, which has a 9.7-inch touch screen and will set you back at least $499.

A smaller iPad is likely to be geared not just toward consumers who want a cheaper tablet but also at the education market, which has been increasingly adopting tablets (and the iPad in particular). 

The product would also be a major departure from the stance taken by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who said in 2010 that the company believes a 10-inch screen is the minimum size necessary for making “great tablet apps.”


Stay tuned!

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Credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Tagged: Computing, Google, Apple, mobile, iPhone, Android, apps, iPad, Amazon, tablet, iPad Mini

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