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What’s Next From Apple: Bigger iPad Pro Tablet, New iPhones Unveiled

Apple debuted its biggest ever tablet, the iPad Pro, a new version of Apple TV, and two new iPhones with a special "3D Touch" technology, at an event dubbed “Hey Siri” Wednesday in San Francisco.

The new iPad Pro, aimed at business users, comes with the 12.9-inch screen, compared with 9.7 inches for the current full-size iPad. It allows for split screens and more powerful games. Its width is the same as the height of the iPad Air and it weighs 1.57 pounds, about the same as the original iPad.

"Today we have the biggest news in iPad since the iPad and I am thrilled to show it to you," Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

It will come in silver, gold and space gray and be available in November. Prices are $799 for a 32GB model, $949 for 64GB, and as much as $1,079 for 128GB. The iPad Pro also comes with a physical smart keyboard (for $169) and a new stylus called an Apple Pencil ($99). 

Samsung made a tablet aimed at professionals last year. It had screens as large as 12.2 inches and also came with a stylus. More recently, though, Samsung has been shrinking the screens on its tablets.

The new iPad also marks Apple's latest attempt to steal corporate customers away from Microsoft, whose personal computers have been business staple for decades. Microsoft makes a tablet designed for the needs of office workers called the Surface Pro 3 that sells at prices starting at $800. With a 12-inch display screen, the Surface Pro 3 is slightly smaller than Apple's new tablet.

In a surprise development, two Microsoft executives joined the stage to show Microsoft Office on the iPad Pro. The demonstration showed spilt screens with Microsoft Word and a PowerPoint presentation.

They were followed by an executive at Adobe, who previewed a new app called Photoshop Fix.

New iPhones with '3D Touch'

The new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were introduced nearly an hour and a half into Apple's presentation.

"While they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones," Cook said.

One addition is "3D Touch," which uses screen sensors to discern between a light tap and extended finger pressures to trigger different functions. A version of "Force Touch" arrived on Apple's smartwatch and some laptops this spring.

Pressing down hard on the new iPhones can give you quick access to taking a selfie or getting directions home. From a message, 3D Touch will give you a preview of a web link without launching the browser.

The iPhones have 12 megapixel iSight cameras with improved camera sensors.

They are priced from $199 for a 6S and from $299 for a 6S Plus with a two-year contract and are available on Sept. 25.

Some analysts question whether the new features will inspire the same type of consumer demand that propelled last year's iPhone success story — Apple sold a record 183 million iPhones in the nine months since releasing the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. But research firm Kantar Worldpanel said a substantial number of iPhone owners are still using older, smaller models, which makes them likely candidates to upgrade.

'We Believe the Future of Television is Apps'

The new Apple TV, meanwhile, will feature a remote control that can be operated by touch or by voice with the personal assistant Siri.

"Our vision for TV is simple and perhaps a little provocative," Cook said. "We believe the future of television is apps."

Apple's set-top box is catching up with such rivals as Roku and Amazon's Fire TV with the ability to install new apps on the device and to search for video with voice controls.

Apple has long insisted on controlling apps available on the device's home screen. In doing so, it can ensure that menus and keyboards look and feel the same, whether you're on Netflix or PBS.

But there have been many services unavailable on the home screen. To watch on the TV, viewers have had to launch those apps on an iPhone or iPad first and use a feature called AirPlay to get video on the TV through the home Wi-Fi network. Complicated.

Having app choices directly on the home screen make things simpler. To make sure everything runs smoothly, Apple created a new version of its mobile operating system called "tvOS."

The app store also allows for non-video services, such as games and music.

A new remote has a Siri microphone button for voice commands such as "show me some comedies." The new device can search through shows and movies available on a range of apps including Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime. New Guitar Hero and Star Wars games are also coming to Apple TV.

The current TV model is a few years old and does little beyond playing video and music.

Analysts say the new TV box is part of Apple's broader strategy to carve out a bigger role in the home. For instance, the new Apple TV could serve as a hub for Siri to control lamps, thermostats and other "smart" appliances, using Apple's HomeKit technology.

More Information on Apple Watch

As for the Apple Watch, the newest version of its operating system will allow users to see more information on the watch face such as latest news, a view of the day ahead, and maps that have transit information so it will be easier to use public transportation.

Facebook messenger is coming to the watch, plus AirStrip, an app for health care providers, and GoPro.

A new watch band is being designed by Hermes. Other new bands and faces are also available.

After a series of high-profile Apple launches over the past year — super-sized iPhones, a digital wallet, a sleek smartwatch — analysts said before the event that this week's news might not seem as dramatic. But the event, which closed with One Republic, could reveal more about the company's strategy and its aspirations to be an indispensable part of daily life.

"Apple's master plan is to be ubiquitous," said Jordan Edelson of software firm Appetizer Mobile, explaining why Apple is increasingly designing its iPhone and Siri to interact with cars, televisions and "smart" home systems.

It isn't a sure bet: Apple rivals like Google, Samsung and Microsoft are building their own technology for Internet-connected cars and homes.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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