Apple Inc unveils iPad Air, iPad Mini, Macbook Pro, gives away Mac software for free, price starts $499

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Apple Inc's iPad Air is about 20 pct thinner than previous generation of tablets, with price starting at $499. (AP) Apple Inc's iPad Air is about 20 pct thinner than previous generation of tablets, with price starting at $499. (AP)
SummaryApple Inc unveiled new Apple iPad Air, iPad Mini, Macbook Pro, looks to sweeten deal, prices them at a premium.

Apple Inc on Tuesday unveiled thinner iPad Air and faster Mac computers and offered free upgrades for life on its operating system and business software, ahead of a competitive holiday shopping season.

Apple iPad Air, iPad Mini, Macbook Pro: At a glance

The debut of the one-pound iPad Air and MacBook Pro with sharper 'retina' display repeats a pattern of recent launches with improvements in existing lines rather than totally new products, and Apple shares fell 0.3 per cent for the day.

Apple Inc said upgrades to its Mac operating system and iWork software suite, which compete with Microsoft Corp's Excel, Word and other applications, will now be offered for all MacBooks and Mac computers.

That brings Apple's model of free system software upgrades on phones and tablets to the computer market, where Apple is still the underdog to Microsoft's Windows.

Apple Inc. may be trying to safeguard its grip on mobile software as Microsoft revs up its Windows-powered Surface Pro, which runs applications, such as Word or Excel, that are the standard for business customers, analysts said.

"We are turning the industry on its ear, but this is not why we're doing it," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook told media and technology executives at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center.

"We want our customers to have our latest software."

The market is awash in inexpensive tablets running Google Inc's Android software, but the company may be focused on fending off a threat from the high end.

"In the tablet PC market, they do think Microsoft is a bigger threat than Android," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. "The iPad Air will compete with Surface Pro, not some rinky-dink Android tablet."

Gartner estimates that Apple's share of the global tablet market will slip to 47.2 percent in 2014, with Android-based tablets just overtaking Apple's this year. The IT research outfit expects Microsoft tablets to grab 3.4 percent of the market this year, double the 1.7 percent forecast for 2013.

PRESSURE

Microsoft gets 65 percent of its Windows revenue, which totaled $19.2 billion last fiscal year, from PC manufacturers which put the system on its machines, and 35 percent from other sources, chiefly people and businesses buying its software separately to install themselves.

The latest version of Windows, when bought separately to install on an old computer, starts at $120 for a home version and goes up to $200 for the

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