Apple Unveils iPads And Free OSX Upgrade, But Partners Want More

Branded the iPad Air, Apple's fifth-generation tablet was unveiled Tuesday at an Apple event in San Francisco. Though the tablet leader had more than just a new iPad up its sleeve, some partner and customer expectations were still not fulfilled.

The iPad Air weighs in at only 1 pound, an achievement Apple said makes it the thinnest, lightest full-sized tablet on the market.

Sharing many characteristics with the newly released iPhone 5S, the iPad Air comes equipped with a 64-bit A7 processor and has the M7 motion coprocessor. For the first time, an iPad will come with two built-in microphones.

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From the introduction of the original iPad to the debut of the iPad Air, Apple has improved performance eight-fold, though the graphics performance has improved 72-fold.

A second iPad mini also made an appearance on the San Francisco stage, this time sporting a retina display, something the first iPad mini lacked. Not to be outdone on speed, the new mini also comes loaded with the 64-bit A7 processor.

Historically, upgrading to the next operating system on a Mac or MacBook required a $199 purchase from an Apple online or retail store. Beginning on Tuesday, the update is offered free of charge through the app store, an improvement some analysts say Microsoft should be concerned about.

"Microsoft generates 96 percent of its operating margins from operating system and productivity software licensing, and Apple is now teaching people to expect both of those things to be free," wrote Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at London, U.K.-based business and technology research firm Ovum.

As a bonus, users running on versions of the Mac operating system as old as Snow Leopard will be able to update directly to Mavericks, skipping the in-between operating systems.

With the operating system upgrade also comes plenty of new features and capabilities for both the iWork and iLife packages. Arguably the most notable change is instant collaboration between all Apple devices via the iCloud.

Apple also unveiled its new MacBook Pro, available in 13-inch or 15-inch models, both of which come loaded with a full retina display and a fourth-generation dual-core and quad-core Intel processor. Though the power and resolution were amped up, the device's body was slimmed down. The new 13-inch laptop weighs less than 3.5 pounds and starts at $1,299, while the 15-inch starts at $1,999.

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Mike Hadley, CEO of Boston, Mass.-based solution provider iCorps, said that despite all of the announcements, Apple will still be playing catch-up in enterprise.

"The only reason enterprises have iPads is because they bought them when Apple was the only tablet player," Hadley said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told audience members at Tuesday's event that 81 percent of tablets being used in the world are iPads, leaving only 19 percent for all other tablets combined.

Hadley said he agreed consumer iPad use is high but that the tablet is lacking far behind what Windows devices like the Surface Pro have to offer for enterprise. He added that he has seen an increasing number of customers use Surface tablets as a replacement for a PC or laptop, something he has yet to see an iPad achieve.

Jonathan Dale, director of marketing at Fiberlink, a Blue Bell, Pa.-based enterprise mobility management company disagreed with Hadley.

"Looking at the phones and tablets we manage for business across the globe, we found that iPads make up over a third of all those devices," Dale wrote in an email. "The iPad is the most popular tablet among employees who use mobile devices for work, and is a very effective device for both professional and personal use."

In fact, Dale pegged Microsoft as the mobile hardware company with the biggest concern. "[Microsoft's] devices haven't been adopted in the enterprise as quickly," Dale said.

No matter how many new product releases and software updates Apple may pull out of its hat, Hadley is still disappointed with the company's insistence on competing with partners.

"The channel is where Apple really has to do some damage control," Hadley said. "They have not played well in the channel at all. Apple is just trying to take it all."

The new MacBook Pros begin shipping Tuesday, and the Mavericks operating system is available for download immediately. The iPad Air will be available Nov. 1, followed by the iPad mini later in November.