In what may be the latest sign of how the coronavirus outbreak is upending the tech industry, Apple – known for its splashy product launch events – showed off new flagship devices in a virtual presentation to some journalists on Wednesday.
The Cupertino, California-based company, which currently has its staff working from home, unveiled updates to its iPad and MacBook Air line. Among the updates: faster processors, revamped cameras and new keyboards.
The product launch comes as the coronavirus outbreak slowed Apple (AAPL)’s momentum. Like many other companies, Apple (AAPL) warned that coronavirus would hurt its revenue. Apple (AAPL) sold fewer than 500,000 iPhones in China – one of its largest markets – in February, according to government data, a plunge of more than 60% compared to the same month last year.
Apple told journalists on a call that it’s working as hard as it can in the current climate to deliver orders to customers as fast as it can. The Apple Store website was refreshed to promote the new iPad Pro – beneath a notice at the top of the page reminding customers that all Apple retail stores outside of Greater China “are closed until further notice” because of the spread of the virus.
The company’s new iPad Pro, available in 11 inches ($799) and 12.9 inches ($899), looks similar to its previous models but features a new Liquid Retina display, more powerful processor and a new ultra wide camera. It also packs a LIDAR scanner for camera depth sensing and to support augmented reality.
LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, sends out pulses that bounce off objects and return to the sensor, telling it how far away things are. It’s been long used in self-driving car technology and NASA is developing a landing system using LIDAR.
Apple said it is has sold 500 million iPads to date and the product has remained the best selling tablet for 10 years. The new iPads go on sale starting Wednesday and ship next week.
The MacBook Air is also getting an upgrade with what Apple says provides double the performance speeds and storage as its previous model, as well as TouchID and a new Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard was first introduced on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, touting a scissor mechanism rather than its troubled “butterfly” method that broke for many users. The traditional scissor keys are typically more durable.
The MacBook Air, which starts at $999, will ship next week. The new iPad Pro also supports a new Magic Keyboard accessory ($299) with backlit keys and USB-C support. It ships in May.
Across the tech industry, companies have been forced to cancel or rethink their big press events and conferences. Google and Facebook both canceled major developer conferences. Apple recently said WWDC, its massive developer event, will be online-only this year.