Apple unveils iPad Air, new Macs for holidays

Apple unveils iPad Air, new Macs for holidays

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

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 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 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 per cent in 2014, with Android-based tablets just overtaking Apple's this year. The IT research outfit expects Microsoft tablets to grab 3.4 per cent of the market this year, double the 1.7 per cent forecast for 2013.

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