Peter Kafka

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Apple’s Mini Pitch: Just as Good as an iPad, Better Than Everything Else

You got this one right, too, Internet: It is indeed the iPad mini, and it’s $329.

If you’re looking for a surprise here, you won’t find it. As predicted, Apple delivered a smaller version of the tablet it first brought out in April 2010.

And, earlier this morning, Tim Cook announced that Apple had sold 100 million of the full-sized ones since then.

So why buy the new one? Apple’s messaging today comes down to two basic ideas:

  • The iPad mini is just as good as the regular iPads.
  • The iPad mini is much better than the smaller tablets you’ve seen from Amazon and Google.

Is that enough? Earlier in his presentation, Cook argued convincingly that consumers didn’t have much interest in rival tablets, boasting that 91 percent of all Web traffic on tablets comes from iPads. But, as we now know, Apple’s own executives think there’s value in a smaller tablet, even if Steve Jobs publicly disagreed.

Time to see what consumers think.

——————

We know that Apple is showing off a new iPad today. And we know it will be smaller and cheaper than its other models.

But while we obsess over the details that Tim Cook and company unveil at the California Theatre in San Jose this morning, it’s worth keeping the big picture in mind: How will Apple convince consumers to buy a smaller version of the thing they have already bought 84 million times?

There seems to be a pretty good business case for Apple here: Google and Amazon are making increasingly attractive mini tablets. And even if those gadgets don’t appear to be making much of a dent in iPad sales so far, there’s no reason to let them have the minipad market to themselves.

Plus, there’s the fact that Apple executives who aren’t Steve Jobs seem to think a small tablet is a good thing.

But that’s all behind-the-scenes stuff. For the past two years, Apple has been telling consumers that the tablet it makes is perfect for use at home, at work and on the road. So, what does a smaller version of the same thing have to offer?

We’ll get to hear Apple make its case very soon. Tune in below for live coverage. You can also watch the event stream in real time, as long as you have an Apple computer, Apple TV or iOS device.

Greetings! Typing at you live from San Jose. In theory, Apple event should kick off in 10 minutes.

9:53 am: Time to play “name that song.” Currently in rotation: Something that sounds like El DeBarge. Though pretty sure it isn’t.

9:54 am: Also have time to introduce my fellow ATD writers, who are also on hand to contribute live reports. Say hello to John “The Brow” Paczkowski, Bonnie “Boom Boom” Cha, and Adam Tow, who is so cool he doesn’t need a nickname.

(FYI, Adam is the guy who takes all the great photos you’re seeing. He’s also the guy who keeps the site running. Good guy to suck up to.)

9:56 am: Interesting. SoundHound works even with the din in here. So I can tell you we’re now listening to something called “It’s Time” by something called Imagine Dragons. (Sounds like Simple Minds, for you oldsters.)

10:00 am: And we’re on. Here’s Tim Cook. Loud applause.

10:01 am: Cook intro-ing. “Really exciting things to show you.”

Update time, beginning with iPhone.

Superlatives for iPhone 5 opening-weekend sales, which we’ve heard about.

Now a video of people buying phones at Apple stores.

Buying an iPhone 5 was very, very exciting. Even more so if you had a thumping, soaring soundtrack behind you as you made your purchase.

No ugly people bought iPhone 5s opening weekend.

10:04 am: Cook is back onstage.

Now recapping intro of iPod touch, nano. Shoutout to The Verge, which is apparently off the Apple shitlist.

Sold three million new iPod touches, nanos.

iOS 6 now on 200 million devices.

“Phenomenal!”

“Fastest upgrade rate” of any device “we’re aware of.”

More feature recaps.

125 million documents “in the Cloud.” Wonder if that includes music files.

300 billion iMessages in last year. [Applause] 28,000 per second.

160 million Game Center accounts. (I have one. Have never used it.)

70 million photos shared.

App store: Last month, 700,000 iOS apps. Now 275,000 iPad apps. Both numbers “growing,” Cook says.

New milestone: 35 billion apps downloaded.

“This is jaw-dropping.”

$6.5 billion paid out to developers. Someone back that math out, and you can figure out total app sales.

iBooks: 1.5 million titles available.

Cook is uptempo, selling hard this morning. Bezos-like.

New version of iBooks out today. “Really cool new reading option”: Continuous scrolling. A few “ahs” from the crowd.

New sharing feature with Facebook, Twitter.

Now supports Japanese, Chinese text.

“You’re going to love it.”

On to the Mac. Apple outgrew the PC market, 15 percent to 2 percent, in the last year. Been doing that for six years.

Because everyone everywhere says Mac is the best.

10:14 am: Going to continue innovating with Mac. So here’s Phil Schiller to talk about it. [Loud applause]

MacBook: 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display was perhaps the best we’ve made. Engadget, The Verge, Wired all praised us.

But No. 1-selling notebook, and Mac, is 13-inch MacBook Pro. “Just perfect for so many uses.”

So we’re going to “introduce something so much better.”

Here’s the 13-inch MacBook Pro. [Loud applause]

.75-inch thin. Look, it’s 20 percent thinner than the last model. At 3.5 pounds, it’s “almost a pound lighter” than the last one.

“Look how thin it is.”

Bye-bye, optical drive.

Retina display, like all of you said it would have.

2,560 by 1,660 pixels.

“Second-highest-resolution notebook display.” 15-inch Macbook is highest.

Schiller is trying to tell us that you’ll get a better image on your notebook than on your HDTV.

“Surfing the Web could be like a fine print magazine.”

Great for photographers. Lots of Retina-optimized apps.

“But there’s a lot more”: Better speakers, HD camera, etc.

On to the innards: “Everything about the new MacBook Pro has been reengineered from scratch.”

Chips: Intel Ivy Bridge, Intel HD Graphics.

“It is a fantastic computer.”

10:22 am: Meanwhile! Eagle-eyed John Paczkowski points out that on the right side of the stage, there appears to be something draped in black cloth on a black stand. If you squint and hope, you could imagine something like a big monitor under there …

10:23 am: Now an ad.

Starting pricing: MacBook Air, $999; MacBook Pro, $1,199; MacBook Pro w/Retina, $1,699.

“It is the best lineup of portables we have ever offered.”

10:25 am: New: Mac mini. “You knew there’d be something called ‘mini’ in this presentation.” [Applause]

Haven’t heard anyone talk about Mac mini in a very long time. New innards. Better chips, more storage, RAM. Entry-level is $599.

10:27 am: iMac. It’s “the best all-in-one computer in the industry.”

Remember the original iMac from 1998?

Schiller shows off something that looks like those “evolution of man” posters, showing iMacs over the years.

Ooohs and ahs for new super-thin iMac. Followed by loudest applause of morning.

Sustained applause.

Still clapping.

Schiller: “Stunning from every side.”

10:29 am: So there’s that mystery solved. It was a monitor under wraps over there. It just happens to have a computer built into it.

5mm-thin edge. Extends down to “the chin” of the device.

They used something called “friction stir welding” to put the device together.

It brings back the image of the old iMac, which now looks like a sad fatty hanging out with Louis C.K. at the Cinnabon.

10:32 am: Many more specs, explanations of how they made it so thin. For instance: “Plasma deposition process.”

Eight pounds lighter than old tubby iMac.

“There is a serious computer inside this thin design.”

New iMac cannot fly, nor can it turn water into wine.

New “Apple Fusion Drive” is available for both mini and iMac. 128GB flash. 1 terabyte or 3TB HDD. “Fused into a single volume.”

Basic idea: Fusion Drive figures out, on the fly, what stuff should go over to flash drive, which should be relegated to HDD. “You just use it, it works.”

Fusion Drive gets round of applause.

Entry level for new iMac: $1,299. More applause.

Shipping next month.

Next level up: $1,799. Those won’t ship till December.

Uses 50 percent less energy. “Perhaps the boldest new iMac designs we’ve ever created.”

10:38 am: Schiller off, Cook back.

“These products are really cool.”

Next up: iPad.

New stat: Two weeks ago, sold our 100-millionth iPad. Applause.

That’s in 2.5 years, remember. “Unprecedented for a new product in a new category.”

“This has attracted a fair amount of attention.” But no one is using rival tablets, Cook says: iPads account for 91 percent of tablet Web traffic.

Why are iPads killing it? “Turns out there is a simple reason for it. People love their iPads.”

Cook sings praises of existing iPad line.

So …

Wait for it …

Not there yet: Some education talk.

Students, teachers love the iPad. Here’s a testimonial from a school superintendent in Texas.

Refers to iBooks Author, introduced earlier this year. (Haven’t heard much about this since.)

New iPad textbooks so great they make you want to be a kid again. Now in 2,500 classrooms in the U.S.

Not just Big Three publishers, but little ones, too.

New version of iBooks Author. (Note that yesterday McGraw-Hill was offering executive for interview, post-event.)

Easier to update books, etc. Available today.

10:45 am: Time to talk up iPad in the office.

94 percent of Fortune 500 “testing or deploying iPad.”

“Just getting started …”

Still winding up: Newest iPad is awesome. “But we’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

10:47 am: Cook off, Schiller back.

Schiller: Fourth-generation iPad. “Amazing … it is a powerhouse.”

New A6X chip.

2x faster than last chip for CPU, for graphics. New “image signal processor,” etc.

Ten-hour battery life. Upgraded camera. LTE with “greatly expanded coverage.” Working with many new carriers, including Sprint.

New cables, connectors.

Retina display, of course. Comes in “both black and white.”

Starts at $499 for 16GB. $629 with cellular.

“So, what else can we do to help customers find even more uses for iPad …”

10:50 am: And here we go: iPad mini (or whatever they’re calling it). Loudest applause yet.

Yup, “iPad mini.”

“What can you do with iPad mini that you can’t do” with regular iPad? “This” — you can hold it in one hand.

Again, crucial here for Schiller, et al, to explain why you want one of these, not just to talk specs.

Then again, crowd already pumped.

Thin as a pencil, light as a pad of paper.

Screen size: It had to be smaller, but not too small, etc. iPad 2: 9.7-inch diagnoal, iPad mini, 7.9-inch. Both have same pixel count. So all software created for iPad already works on mini.

“Great for reading your email, responding to your email, surfing the Web.”

Great for magazines, books, HD phone calls. Great for all of your iWork apps. “It is so much fun” to play GarageBand on this.

Facebook shout-out.

Games: Real Racing 2.

No one else can say their apps work great on shrunken tablets.

Compares iPad mini side by side with Google’s Nexus 7, without calling it out by name.

Apple’s display is bigger — 7.9-inch to 7-inch. That’s 29.6 square inches, compared to 21.9. 35 percent larger. “That’s a huge difference.”

Shows off Web page for Guggenheim site, argues that, in practicality, it’s 49 percent bigger, once you strip out the Android “noise” around it. Flip it over, and it’s 67 percent.

Two messages so far: iPad mini is like iPad, but smaller. iPad mini is like Google’s Nexus, but better.

Shout-out to TripAdvisor. Did I also hear him name-check Pandora?

iPad mini’s innards better than iPad 2’s.

Better chip, 5MP iSight camera, LTE wireless, faster Wi-Fi.

Ten-hour battery life.

“Every inch an iPad.”

11:00 am: Here’s a video.

Jony Ive, of course.

This sounds like The Jam in the background. Wonder if that’s right.

This isn’t just a shrunken iPad, says Jony Ive. If we just shrunk it, you’d notice “loss.” This is not just a “reduction of the original.”

More spec talk.

(Apple isn’t arguing that there’s anything you can do with this — short of holding it one-handed — that you can’t already do with the devices it is already selling. And that alone may be enough for some people. But I assume that the price will be the real kicker here.)

11:05 am: Schiller back.

Comes with its own line of covers (optional).

Starts at 16GB. $329 for Wi-Fi only.

Still selling iPad 2 at $399.

Preorder starts Friday. W-Fi ships next week. Two weeks later, shipping Wi-Fi + cellular.

And here comes a TV ad.

Not a word. Very smart.

11:09 am: Schiller off, Cook on.

2012 wrap-up. “We told you earlier this year you would see some incredible innovation this year … we think we kept our promise.”

Sparing you recap of things we’re already heard about today. My hunch: No one more thing today. Hope I’m wrong!

“Yes, it has been an incredible year.”

“A truly prolific year of innovation for Apple.”

Shout-outs to Apple employees. “They dedicate a huge part of their lives to making the best products on Earth.”

Applause. Cook beams.

“These are the most talented and innovative people I know, and it is a privilege to work with them”

11:12 am: And that’s a wrap.
Closing music from Jack Black, via his new “Blunderbuss” album, which is excellent. [Correction: That's Jack White, of course. Thanks to reader RichardL for noting.]

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