Apple unveils new, thin 'iPad Air'

Apple has unveiled a new, thinner, lighter tablet called the "iPad Air" along with a slew of new Macs ahead of the holiday shopping season as it faces growing competition from rival gadget makers.

The Cupertino, California-based company made the announcements Tuesday at an event in San Francisco. The iPad Air weighs just 0.45kg, compared with 0.64kg for the previous version. Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller called the tablet a "screaming fast iPad." He said it is eight times faster than the original iPad that came out in 2010.

The iPad Air will go on sale November 1 and start at $US499 ($NZ586) for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory, while the iPad 2 will continue selling at $399. A new iPad Mini, meanwhile, will be available later in November starting at $399 for a 16-gigabyte model.

The iPad's market share has been eroding compared with cheaper rivals running Google`s Android operating system. Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that Android tablets will end 2013 with a 50 per cent share of the worldwide market versus 49 per cent for the iPad. Just two years ago, the iPad commanded a 65 per cent market share compared to 30 per cent for Android tablets.

Apple sold 14.6 million iPads in the June quarter, down 14 per cent from the same time last year. It was the first year-over-year decline in iPad sales.

Nonetheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook touted that Apple has sold 170 million iPads since the tablets launched three years ago.

Apple also refreshed its computer lineup. A new, 13-inch (33cm) MacBook Pro with Retina display is thinner and lighter, Schiller said, adding that the laptop has up to 9 hours of battery life, enough to "watch the entire trilogy of `The Black Knight' on one charge." The notebook's new price is lower: $US1,299, compared with $1,499 for the previous version.

A larger MacBook Pro, with a 15-inch (38cm) monitor and 256 gigabytes of storage starts at $1,999, compared with $2,199 for the previous version.

The Mac Pro, a high-end desktop computer aimed at what Apple calls "power users," will be available in December for $2,999.

The company also said that its latest computer operating system, Mavericks, is available free of charge.

Apple also says nearly two-thirds of its mobile devices are running iOS7, the revised operating system it released in September. Twenty million people have listened to iTunes Radio about a month after its release.

- AP

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