Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at a much-anticipated media event Monday, revealed new details on the Apple Watch and offered a sneak preview of an ultra-thin, ultra-light MacBook. Both go on sale next month. Cook also announced a new deal for streaming HBO content on Apple TV, updated numbers for iPhone sales, and the growing adoption of Apple Pay, plus a new set of apps for health and medical research.
Apple's latest MacBook will boast a variety of innovations and, at 2 pounds, is the lightest MacBook yet, Cook said at the San Francisco event, which was live-streamed on the Web via Safari.
Re-engineered "from the ground up," the new MacBook features a new keyboard design that makes each key "more stable, more precise, and 40 percent thinner." The fanless and energy-efficient device also comes with LED keyboard back-lighting, a 12-inch edge-to-edge Mac Retina display, a pressure-sensitive trackpad that can "tell the difference between a light tap and a deep press," and a battery that lasts for nine to 10 hours on a single charge.
Set to ship on April 10, the new MacBook will cost $1,299 for 256 GB of solid-state disk storage and $1,599 for 512 GB.
And then, of course, there was news about the new Apple Watch, the smart and connected wrist-worn timepiece/mini-computer that will go on sale April 24 online, in Apple stores and at select retailers in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany, France and other markets. (By-appointment previews in Apple stores and a few other locations will start on April 10.)
Apple Watch Features
"Apple Watch begins a new chapter in the way we relate to technology and we think our customers are going to love it," Cook said.
Among some of the Apple Watch features revealed at Monday's event: an extra-precise design that stays accurate to within 50 milliseconds of the universal time standard, messaging and e-mail capabilities, a heart monitor, a daily activity tracker, and support for Apple Pay, Apple's contactless mobile payment app.
Apple Watch will be available in different colors, styles and finishes in three collections: Apple Watch Sport ($349 and $399), Apple Watch ($549 to $1,099), and the 18-karat-gold alloy Apple Watch Edition, which starts at $10,000.
New Ways To Watch TV
While rumors indicated today's "Spring Forward" event would be centered mainly on the Apple Watch, Cook kicked off his keynote with a variety of other news, including a new partnership with HBO. Apple plans to roll out "HBO Now" for Apple TV starting this April. For $14.99 a month, HBO Now users will be able to view HBO programming on their Apple devices or through Apple TV, without needing a cable or satellite TV subscription.
HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler was on hand to introduce the partnership and described the new offering as "the next phase of innovation at HBO."
Starting next month, HBO Now will be available exclusively in the U.S. For a limited time, customers who sign up via their iPads, iPhones, iPod Touches or Apple TV will receive one month of the service for free. Past HBO series like The Sopranos, Entourage, Sex and the City will be available for anytime viewing, in addition to current HBO favorites like Game of Thrones.
Medical Research Offering
Another new Apple service introduced today is collectively called ResearchKit. It's designed to provide an iPhone-based "software framework" aimed at improving progress in medical research. The first apps developed for ResearchKit, which rolls out officially next month, are designed to improve understanding and treatment of asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
For example, the University of Rochester and Sage Bionetworks created an app called mPower that lets Parkinson's patients participate in studies and take various tests on their iPhones to helps medical experts better understand their symptoms.
"To think that this device that you use to check your mail can be used to battle disease is simply amazing," said Mike O'Reilly, Apple's vice president of medical technology.
"With hundreds of millions of iPhones in use around the world, we saw an opportunity for Apple to have an even greater impact by empowering people to participate in and contribute to medical research," said Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations. "ResearchKit gives the scientific community access to a diverse, global population and more ways to collect data than ever before."
Global Growth for Apple
Cook also offered wide-ranging insights into Apple's equally wide-ranging global market. Cook noted that his company now operates 453 retail stores, including 21 in China, and is seeing sales of iPhones grow nearly twice as fast as any other smartphones.
"iPhone not only created a category, it's the smartphone by which all others are measured," Cook said, adding that Apple has sold more than 700 million units since launching the first iPhone in June 2007.