What to expect for Apple's iPad event
October 22 is Apple's big chance to show off what's expected to be the last batch of products for the year.
A little more than a month after releasing its latest pair of iPhones, Tuesday's event -- the invitations for which proclaim "We still have a lot to cover" -- should bring new versions of the iPad, as well as updated Macs and a price and release date for OS X Mavericks.
That's almost exactly what happened this time last year, when Apple took the wraps off the iPad Mini. A second generation of that device is expected next week, alongside a completely redesigned full-size iPad.
The event takes place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in downtown San Francisco, and is expected to be the last of the year from Apple. Earlier this year, the company told Wall Street to expect a "busy" fall, with more on the way in early 2014.
While much of the attention has focused on the iPhone and iPad -- which bring in the vast majority of Apple's profits -- all eyes are on the company to expand into other areas, including wearable technology and home entertainment. Neither of those two things is expected to be shown off at Tuesday's event. Here's a quick breakdown of what is:
Apple's expected to show off a completely redesigned full-size iPad, as well as a souped-up iPad Mini. In the run-up to Tuesday's event, there have been myriad leaks of both tablets -- many of which were posted by the same individuals who correctly showed off iPhone parts, months before their debut.
The full-size iPad leaks suggest Apple's adopting a nearly identical look to the iPad Mini, with slimmer sides and tighter angling on the back. Leaks of the iPad Mini have suggested Apple plans to offer the tablet in its newer "space gray" color, as well as include a Retina Display, which was missing from last year's model. Alongside those models, new Apple Smart Covers are expected, and are believed to be the ones that leaked out last month.
What remains unclear is whether Apple will carry over its Touch ID fingerprint system from the iPhone 5S to these new tablets. A leaked photo earlier this week suggested as much. Yet features like vibration, LED flashes, and some design treatments haven't always carried over from phones to the company's tablets. However the home button (where the sensor is) is a primary user feature.
OS X Mavericks
Apple showed off Mavericks at its annual developers conference in June with the promise of a release later this year. With that deadline fast approaching, and a final version of the software delivered to developers earlier this month, Mavericks is a shoo-in for a price and a release date -- possibly the same day of the event.
As with other recent major OS X releases, Mavericks brings a few more carryovers from iOS, like iBooks and Apple's mapping service. Apple's also fine-tuned existing software like the Finder, the Calendar app, and its notifications service.
Among the areas where Apple could go into more detail are some of the power management features built into Mavericks. These features could extend the battery life of its portable computers, even older models.
Alongside Mavericks, another WWDC tease was the new Mac Pro, which is a complete rethink of Apple's desktop workstation. Apple showed off an early version of that hardware at WWDC, but didn't give it a price, release date, or a live demo of its performance.
The new Mac Pro is a cylinder with an open center that vents the air from the inside. It replaces a decade old design of the Mac Pro tower, which itself evolved from the PowerMac G5. New features include a speedier processor, a move to flash memory, Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, and USB 3.0.
Early estimates for the cost of the machine, based simply on its components, pegged the machine somewhere in the ballpark of $2,800 to start -- $300 more than what Apple currently sells its existing model for.
A computer that was believed to be the new Mac Pro began appearing in some online benchmarks in June, and once again late last month. More recently, a report from the Austin American-Statesman suggested that Flextronics America, which has done some contract manufacturing for Apple in the past, was hiring some 1,700 employees to build the machine in Texas.
Both versions of Apple's MacBook Pro are overdue for updates. The Retina Display MacBooks were first introduced in 2012, and got a price cut and spec bump this February. For 2013, expect at least an upgrade to Intel's newest Haswell processors, which should bring longer battery life and better performance.
The "regular" old non-Retina versions haven't been updated since last June, when they got a processor speed bump, improved graphics cards, and USB 3.0. But as the last remaining Mac with a disc drive -- something Apple's removed from all of its devices -- the non-Retina MacBook Pros are occupying a mid-range in the company's notebook line that may be squeezed between the high-end Retina laptops and the entry-level Airs.
The Mac Mini -- Apple's least expensive Mac computer -- hasn't been updated since last October, and could use a bump to Intel's newest 2013 "Haswell" processors. It's already got much of Apple's newer I/O, including a Thunderbolt port, HDMI and USB 3.0. Beside the processor, the machine could benefit from speedier 802.11ac Wi-Fi and perhaps even a jump to the newer Thunderbolt 2 spec.
Thunderbolt 2 monitor
Apple hasn't updated its $999 display since introducing it in late 2011, and a lot has changed since then.
The current model still uses the first version of Apple's MagSafe power connection instead of MagSafe 2. The company's given out adapters to new buyers, but it's less than ideal. The monitor is also still on the older USB 2.0 spec.
If Apple's introducing its new Mac Pro, and refreshed Pro notebooks -- it's as good a time as any to push out a new version of this aging display. A new version could also make use of Thunderbolt 2, which promises to push more data while supporting devices on the older spec. The bigger question is whether Apple intends to continue making a monitor for desktop users when the majority of its devices are tablets and phones that can't hook up to it.
Another wildcard is iLife, the creative software Apple includes with its Macs, and now also gives out alongside iWork to new iOS device buyers. The last big update to iLife came in 2010, though Apple's added new features in supplemental updates since then, along with introducing the various iOS counterparts.
New, iOS 7-inspired logos for that software cropped up this week suggesting the iOS apps might be getting an overhaul. It's unclear whether that same thing will carry over to the Mac versions as part of a larger feature update. And if that happens, there's a very real question of whether Apple will charge existing iLife for Mac users, or if the update will be free.
CNET will be there live to cover Tuesday's event, and you can sign up for a reminder by clicking the image below:
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