The new iPad mini with Retnia display. REUTERS/Robert
Apple will give away operating and work software free to
Mac computer users, challenging Microsoft's near-stranglehold
on personal computing as the latter starts to make inroads into
the mobile market.
Apple revealed the surprise offer, available to all users of
MacBooks and Mac computers, at the same time as it unveiled a
slimmer, faster iPad Air and a new line-up of Macs.
Its Mac operating system and iWork software suite, which
compete with Microsoft's Excel, Word and other applications,
will now be offered free to all users.
By giving away its Mac operating system Apple is taking on
Microsoft's predominant Windows platform, installed on an
estimated eight to nine out of 10 of the world's computers
and one of its most profitable cash cows.
"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."
Apple may be trying to safeguard its grip on mobile software
as Microsoft begins to make inroads into tablet computing
with its Windows-powered Surface Pro.
The advantage of those devices, especially to enterprise
customers, is their ability to run Microsoft applications,
such as Word or Excel.
Apple is going after the entire tablet computing market,
trying to appeal to both consumer and enterprises, and is
likely wary of Microsoft making a play for the high-end of
that market with its Surface Pro than cheaper devices that
run on Google Inc's Android software.
"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."
Apple's new iPad Air - its full-size tablet - is about 20
percent thinner than the previous generation of tablets,
weighs one pound and starts at $US 499.
But the new tablets would face stiff competition, with
Microsoft, Nokia and Amazon.com Inc all plugging rival
devices in coming months.
Apple, which jumpstarted the tablet computing market in 2010
with the first iPad, has already come under increasing
pressure from cheaper devices ranging from Amazon's Kindle
Fire to Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's Note.
But while Apple is ceding market share to rivals, its
superior library of apps and content should safeguard its
lead for years to come, analysts say.
Longer term however, investors hope to see real device
innovation from a company that has not unveiled a new
breakthrough product in years.
Cook dismissed the competition as directionless.
"Our competition is different: they're confused," he said.
"Now they're trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into
PCs. Who knows what they'll do next?" "We have a very clear
direction and a very ambitious goal. We still believe deeply
in this category and we're not slowing down on our