Evolutionary, not revolutionary iPad news expected

Apple is also expected to put dates and prices on the Mac Pro and OS X Mavericks

OS X Mavericks

OS X Mavericks

Apple's widely anticipated Tuesday product launch (Wednesday 7am AEST) is expected to bring evolutionary updates to its iPad line and launch dates for new PCs and the latest version of its desktop OS.

The event, which is scheduled to take place in San Francisco, will likely see the introduction of a new iPad. Apple rumor sites and mobile tech blogs have already showed pictures of what's purported to be the new tablet and the biggest immediate difference users will probably notice is a new case.

The new iPad is predicted to have a thinner bezel around the right and left sides of the screen and be both thinner and lighter overall.

Also expected is a jump from the current A6X processor to the new A7 processor, which is the same chip that powers the recently launched iPhone 5S. That will also mean a switch to the new 64-bit version of the iOS operating system, iOS 7, which Apple says means increased performance.

Opinion seems a little less sure on whether the new iPad will include the Touch ID fingerprint reader embedded in the home button. The sensor was introduced with the iPhone 5S and allows users to authenticate themselves by holding a finger to the home button that's under the screen.

iPad Mini

Many Apple watchers are also expecting a refresh of the iPad Mini line.

The Minis are also expected to gain from a faster processor -- in this case from the A5 to the A6X -- and be thinner and lighter.

Something to watch is whether Apple adds its higher resolution "Retina" display to the iPad Mini. That would bring a clearer and sharper picture compared to the current model. There's also a chance the Touch ID could arrive on the iPad Mini.

If the predictions are correct, the changes add up to features that seem more designed to entice existing users to upgrade that than switch from competing products, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research.

"It will be difficult for Apple to move the needle on new tablet sales, as the strongest growth is coming from emerging markets where customers are more price-sensitive," said Rotman Epps. "As weve seen with recent iPhone sales, Apple has an easier time selling high-end products like the 5s to existing customers than selling less-expensive-but-not-cheap products like the 5c to new customers. The low end of the market doesnt belong to Apple, and they havent aggressively tried to change that."

OS X Mavericks

Apple is also expected to provide a launch date for OS X Mavericks, the latest version of its desktop OS.

OS X Mavericks brings numerous improvements and additions and the expectation is that a launch is imminent. Details of the software have already been revealed so of most interest will be the price. Apple's update to Mountain Lion, the current desktop OS, cost US$19.99 so users are expecting a comparable price.

Mac Pro

Apple unveiled the Mac Pro computer under glass at its WWDC developer event earlier this year, but it's still not on sale. On Tuesday, Apple could provide a launch date and price for the computer, which represents a radical redesign from previous models. The computer is circular with a hole running vertically through the middle to allow for better airflow.

Of most interest to professionals is the price. Power users are already asked to pay at least $2,499 for a Mac Pro so many are hoping the base-level model doesn't end up costing even more.

And new MacBook Pros?

Intel's latest laptop processor, called Haswell, was added to the MacBook Air lineup earlier this year but has yet to appear on the meatier MacBook Pro computers. Haswell is now appearing in many competing laptops and an update of the Pro line to include the chip seems like a natural step.

There's a chance the Pro computers could be revised with the higher resolution "Retina" screen become standard across the product range. Reducing prices for laptop screens would make that easier for Apple to accomplish with little or no price hike.

One More Thing

Could Apple surprise with the unveiling of either of its most talked about phantom products: a new Apple TV set-top box or an iWatch wearable computer and phone?

There are few people expecting either of these to be launched Tuesday. It might be partly because such products could command their own announcement events and because there have been few advance leaks about the anticipated products.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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