CEO Tim Cook took the stage for his first keynote speech at the event since the death last October of Apple co-founder and perennial emcee Steve Jobs.
Cook brought out Apple marketing guru Philip Schiller to discuss the changes to Apple's core MacBook line of laptops. The MacBook Air will include third-generation Intel processors, which Schiller said would speed up graphics by 60 percent, and will be $100 cheaper at $1,000 to $1,100. The MacBook Pro will also receive chips from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel's Ivy Bridge series, with prices ranging from $1,200 to $2,200.
Schiller's biggest announcement, however, was the addition of a new MacBook, which he said was Apple's attempt at a "next-generation" MacBook Pro. The super-thin laptop is "the most beautiful computer we've ever made," Schiller said in showing it off to the crowd, which reacted warmly to the thinness of the new laptop. "It's thinner than my finger," Schiller proclaimed of the device, which measures 0.7 inches thick.
The new line of MacBook Pro models will include the "retina display," a high-definition screen technology originally used on the most recent generation of iPads and hailed by critics. Schiller called it the "world's highest resolution notebook display." The new laptop is the first Apple notebook to have an HDMI port and will be called the "MacBook Pro with Retina Display." Prices will start at $2,200 and orders will begin shipping immediately, Schiller announced.
Schiller then ceded the stage to Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, for announcements about the newest version of the Mac's operating system, Mountain Lion.
The operating system will feature deeper integration with iCloud, Apple's remote storage offering, including iCloud-optimized apps, notification center and iCloud tabs on the Safari Web browser. Other updates: A new app called PowerNap will allow Macs to update while they're asleep; AirPlay Mirroring will more easily transfer the display from a Mac to a user's television screen through Apple TV; and the popular iOS offering GameCenter will transition to the Mac line, allowing cross-platform gaming from mobile devices such as the iPad to Apple's personal computers.
Mountain Lion will be available next month for download for $20, a steep discount from earlier versions of the Mac operating system.
Next on stage was another Apple senior vice president, Scott Forstall, who oversees the company's mobile operating system, iOS. Forstall introduced the newest version of that software, iOS 6, which will feature more enhanced integration with Siri. The voice-recognition system will allow users to open apps and access more information, and will be integrated into some cars for what Forstall called "eyes-free" use. Siri, which was previously only available on the newest Apple smartphone, the iPhone 4S, will also now be available on Apple's market-dominating tablet, the iPad.
After announcing updates to several features in iOS -- including a change to video-chat feature FaceTime, which will work on cellular networks instead of solely wireless Internet networks -- Forstall arrived at the most anticipated announcement of his stage time: a new Apple maps application to challenge Google Maps.
Apple's maps software will feature turn-by-turn navigation, use traffic information to reroute users around heavy congestion, offer listings for businesses that include integration with San Francisco online-reviews site Yelp, and provide three-dimensional photographic renderings with a service called Flyover.
The announcement of a new maps feature for Apple escalates a battle with Google, whose mapping software is dominant on mobile devices. Last week, Google announced new three-dimensional city views and other features in an attempt to get ahead of Apple's enhancements, which are expected to end with the native Apple app replacing Google Maps as the default application on iPhones and iPads.
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