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Scott Stein -- who reviews Apple devices, wearables and pretty much anything else you throw at him -- sadly is ill and couldn’t make it today. But stay tuned to CNET for his ongoing iPad and iPhone coverage.
Thursday’s event marks the second product launch for Apple in as many months. It’s expected to be much more low key than last month’s blowout for the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, which featured a performance by rock band U2.
Apple is holding the event at the Town Hall auditorium at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The venue seats a few hundred people, much less than the 2,000 or so present at the September launch of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch at the Flint Performing Arts Center.
A few words about Town Hall: This is the room where former CEO Steve Jobs introduced the first version of Mac OS X in March 2001 and the first iPod in October of that year. And it’s where he held his famous “antennagate” press event about the iPhone 4’s cellular connectivity issues in July 2010.
There were posters outside the room of Steve Jobs, as well as a quote: "If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should do do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."
We're getting the warning this will start soon.
Town Hall is a notable location and has a lot of history for Apple. But in terms of product news in recent times, it’s been used for what some consider the lesser events. Apple most recently used Town Hall for its iPhone 5S and 5C launch a year ago, and the iPhone 4S event in the fall of 2011. Those devices were incremental updates rather than the a major upgrade like the 4, 5 and 6.
Today’s probably not going to be much different. We’re not expecting any huge surprises or major new products. We’ll likely see an updated iPad Air tablet, some new Macs and the introduction of Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite software. We also will probably hear more about Apple Pay, the mobile payments service announced at the iPhone 6 event last month.
In terms of the new 9.7-inch iPad, we’ll likely see a gold version that adds the TouchID fingerprint sensor already in the iPhone. We could also see an antireflective coating on the tablet, a faster processor and a thinner and lighter design.
The iPad Mini probably won’t get much attention today, but it should see some smaller updates, as well.
But don’t hold your breath for a bigger, so-called “iPad Pro” today. That probably won’t go on sale until next year -- at least that’s what we’re hearing from analysts.
Apple accidentally posted screenshots of the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 (or so they appear to be called) on Wednesday. Images of the two devices were revealed in an official user guide to Apple’s iOS 8 operating system for iBooks in the iTunes Store. The images were eventually pulled down, but not before news organizations including CNET saw them.
For the Macs, we’re expecting a new Mac Mini and an iMac desktop with a higher-resolution screen. Neither machines have been significantly updated in a few years, and these new models could be what Apple was hinting at in its invite when it said, “It’s been way too long.”
People have been clamoring for a MacBook Air notebook with a high-definition Retina Display, but that’s also unlikely today. Intel’s new chips still aren’t shipping in huge numbers, so that’s something that likely hit unitl next year.
Because this is a smaller venue, it’s easier to see who’s actually here. There were lots of celebrities at the iPhone 6 event (including singer Gwen Stefani and musician Will.i.am, but because the auditorium was so big, I couldn’t see any of them from my seat. I did see Stefani and comedian Stephen Fry hanging out in the white cube demo area after last month’s keynote.
There are usually board members and top executives at the launches, as well as other friends of Apple. Al Gore, the former vice president who’s also an Apple board member, is speaking at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference in San Francisco today, so we don’t expect him here.
Schiller: As iPad continues to evolve and challenge what a computer can be, that challenges us to move those forward at the higher end. Let's talk about what's going on with the Mac. We have the best lineup we've ever had.
Schiller: Last quarter, Mac grew 18% year over year why the rest of the industry didn't do as well. Our customers love their Macs
Apple’s Mac business might not be as big -- as or a sexy -- as its mobile business, but it remains an important focus for Apple.
The company now generates less than 15 percent of its revenue from Macs, but the devices help flesh out its family of products -- which are increasingly designed to work together.
I'm guessing iMac is next. 27-inch with higher resolution? People keep asking me about touchscreen, I say no. (But it would be cool).
Apple in July reported Mac unit sales rose 18 percent to 4.4 million in the quarter ended June 28. CEO Tim Cook said the Mac boosted Apple's overall financial results, and the company saw strong sales in some regions weak for other PC makers.
Apple hasn't yet reported its most recent quarter, but research firm IDC last week said the company moved into the No. 5 ranking for global PC sales in the calendar third quarter. For the past several years, Apple has controlled a much smaller chunk of the market, but its sleek designs, such as the MacBook Air, have attracted customers.
Apple last year introduced its powerful Mac Pro, and it has continued to add Retina Displays to its various MacBooks. But there also have been some devices that haven't been updated in years.
Schiller: It's been really fun to watch the migration of the Retina Display.
Both Air and Pro got minor, minor updates this year, so probably nothing new here.
Schiller: Today we're really happy for you to see the continued march of this Retina technology and the next step we're going to take with it
First seeing an iPhone, now an iPad
Up pops the MacBook Pro, which has Retina