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Associated Press
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the iPad Air. The new model – more than eight times faster than the original iPad – goes on sale Nov. 1.

Apple unveils new iPads, free OS

– Apple Inc. is refreshing its iPad lineup and slashing the price of its Mac computers ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Apple unveiled a thinner, lighter tablet called the iPad Air along with a slew of new Macs on Tuesday. The iPad Air weighs 1 pound, compared with 1.4 pounds previously.

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller called the tablet a “screaming fast iPad.” He said it is eight times faster than the original iPad that launched in 2010.

The iPad Air will go on sale Nov. 1 and start at $499 for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory. Apple plans to phase out its third and fourth generation iPads while the iPad 2, which launched in 2011, continues selling at $399.

A new iPad Mini, meanwhile, will be available later in November starting at $399 for a 16-gigabyte model. It has a retina display designed to give it a clearer, sharper picture and the same 64-bit chip that powers the iPad Air.

“I think today was about re-establishing that the iPad is the benchmark for what a good tablet experience should be,” Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi said. “Too many times when we look at these devices we focus on hardware, not the whole experience.”

The iPad’s market share has been eroding compared with cheaper rivals running Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

Apple sold 14.6 million iPads in the June quarter, down 14 percent from the same time last year. It was the first year-over-year decline in iPad sales. Nonetheless, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple has sold 170 million iPads since the tablets launched three years ago.

Tim Bajarin, a analyst who’s followed Apple for more than three decades, said the 64-bit chip in the new iPads makes them the most powerful tablets on the market.

Apple also said that its latest computer operating system, Mavericks, will be available free of charge. It’s the first time any major OS X release has been free, and it will be available on any machines from 2007 onward.

Apple also refreshed its computer lineup. A new, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is thinner and lighter, Schiller said, adding that the laptop has up to nine hours of battery life, enough to watch the entire trilogy of “The Dark Knight” on a single charge.

The notebook’s new price is lower: $1,299, compared with $1,499 for the previous version.