With the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus already selling by the millions, Apple plans to focus on its other product lines at a press event Thursday. New tablets and desktops are practically assured, but there may be some significant absences. Here's a quick primer on what Apple is expected to announce.
Apple debuted the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 in October 2013, so Apple's line of tablets is ripe for refreshing. Leaked images of the larger of the two show a device that adopts the iPhone 6's design language to a certain degree, and appears thinner than the iPad Air. It should contain the same A8 processor found in the iPhone 6 models, and will likely improve RAM from 1 GB to 2 GB. The iPad Air 2 is expected to be outfitted with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor found on Apple's iPhones, but there's no solid word on whether or not the iPads will gain NFC for Apple Pay support.
Other improvements will include an improved display. Apple's competitors -- namely Samsung -- have ramped the screen-resolution fight up to the ridiculous. Apple needs to respond. The screens are believed to gain new anti-reflective coatings to make them easier to see outdoors. Last, the iPad is going gold. Apple is believed to be adding a third option to its iPad color palette.
The iPad Mini 3 isn't expected to get more than a fresh coat of paint and a minor spec bump.
[Investor Carl Icahn says Apple should help boost his fortunes. See Apple Undervalued, Big Shareholder Argues.]
Apple last refreshed the design of its venerable iMac line of desktop computers two years ago. In that time, competitors have begun to deliver 4K displays that put the iMac's pixel count to shame. Apple is widely believed to be improving the resolution of its desktop machines as well as giving them a minor visual overhaul. Some have suggested Apple may jump to 5K resolution, or 5120 x 2880 pixels.
Laptop lovers are clamoring for a MacBook Air with Retina Display. Over the summer, such a piece of hardware seemed all but a certainty. This week, however, Re/Code dumped a bucket of cold water on such hopes. Citing sources familiar with Apple's plans, it reports there will be no Retina MacBook Air at this week's event.
What about the Mac Mini? Apple last redesigned it in 2012. It may receive a modest refresh, or may earn only a spec bump. Its future is currently hazy.
OS X Yosemite
There's no question that Apple will fully launch OS X 10.10 Yosemite. The company first showed off Yosemite at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June and has since been beta testing the operating system with both developers and consumers. The consumer beta recently received its sixth update and is very stable. Apple will surely talk about how 10.10 integrates with the new iPhones and iPads thanks to iOS 8 and features such as Continuity. There's no word yet on when Yosemite will go live, but it should be within seven to 10 days from Thursday's event. The operating system will be free.
When Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, it said Apple Pay, its new mobile payment service, would go live in October. Apple Pay uses NFC on the new iPhones, combined with the owner's iTunes account, to make tap-and-go payments at participating retailers around the country. Apple is expected to provide a full list of those retailers as well as the launch date. Several recent leaks suggest Apple Pay will go live as soon as Saturday.
iPad Pro and Apple TV
Apple has long been rumored to be working on a 12.9-inch iPad Pro model. The tablet would of course be a larger version of the iPad Air, with a thin design, epic battery life, and Retina Display. However, The Wall Street Journal recently suggested such a device has been delayed. Apple is asking its panel makers to churn out more displays for the in-demand iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which is eating into their ability to make screens for the larger iPad. Apple may offer a preview of the larger iPad, but it isn't expected to go on sale until early 2015.
Apple TV is another product with a questionable future. Apple hasn't updated the hardware in two years. It is possible the device will see a significant software update and possibly even integration with Apple's HomeKit home automation tools.
There's always room for surprises. Perhaps Apple still has a few tricks up its sleeve for Thursday. InformationWeek will be providing coverage and analysis of the event and announcements as they unfold.
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