Apple threw the industry a bit of a curve naming its new iPad, the iPad Air instead of the expected iPad 5. Apple introduced the new 64-bit model as well as a new version of the iPad mini at an event today in San Francisco.
The iPad Air weighs only one pound versus the current 4th generation iPad with Retina display at 1.4 pounds. It's also 43% thinner offering what Apple exec Phil Schiller says is a "dramatically different feel" and is more comfortable to hold in one hand.
Schiller also said the new specs position the iPad as the "lightest, full-sized tablet in the world." But while the specs of both the iPad Air were mostly reported earlier in speculative news reports, including the notable inclusion of a 64-bit A7 processor in both the iPad Air and new iPad mini (which also now sports a 2048 x 1536 Retina display), Apple made a number of strategic announcements that were somewhat surprising.
For example, Apple's decided to keep selling both the IPad 2 introduced two years ago (at the same $399 starting price it started selling for a year ago) and the original iPad mini which becomes the first Apple to sell for under $300 ($299).
Apple also is making both its iWork and iLife software apps free to new iPad buyers and has updated and redesigned the apps for iOS 7 including new versions of Pages, Numbers and its Keynote presentations app. (New Mac and iPhone buyers also get the software for free). The move comes as competitor Microsoft continues to tout the inclusion of Office in its Surface tablets, but Apple now offers a much broader suite of software to new buyers.
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A 64-bit advantage?
Considering it will be the first tablet to ship with a 64-bit processor (availability is set for November 1), Apple was uncharacteristically level in its hype of the new A7 processor.
"The iPad Air has a 64-bit desktop architecture, with over a billion transistors and CPU performance twice the previous generation and twice the graphics performance as well," said Schiller. "Performance is eight times that of the original iPad and 72 times the graphics performance."
But there wasn't alot else said about it.
"With 64-bit Apple is positioning for the future. We saw the same thing with PCs," analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates told TabTimes. "Today it's a bit like running a 12 -cylinder car that can only run on 6 cyclinders. When Apple has a 64-bit version of iOS and the apps, they'll be able to take full advantage of the architecture."
(Gold will be speaking at the TabletBiz onference & expo coming to New York on November 13).