SAN FRANCISCO – Apple 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, Calif., company made the announcements Tuesday at an event in San Francisco. The iPad Air weighs just 1 pound, compared with 1.4 pounds 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 Nov. 1 and start at $499 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 Inc.’s Android system. Research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that Android tablets will end 2013 with a 50 percent share of the worldwide market versus 49 percent for the iPad. Just two years ago, the iPad commanded a 65 percent market share compared to 30 percent for Android tablets.
Apple sold 14.6 million iPads in the June quarter, down 14 percent 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, unveiling a new, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display; a larger MacBook Pro, with a 15-inch monitor and 256 gigabytes of storage; and the Mac Pro, a high-end desktop computer aimed at what Apple calls “power users,” which will be available in December for $2,999.