Apple CEO Tim Cook and colleagues unveiled an expanding Apple Watch universe, the iPad Pro, enhanced Apple TV, new iPhones and a souped up Siri at the highly anticipated Apple Event today. But they also demonstrated a more open attitude to how they work with other brands, inviting others on-stage (literally and metaphorically) in a way that wouldn’t have been conceivable under Steve Jobs.
Reinforcing Apple Watch as a luxury sub-brand, the Apple Watch Hermès collection was a surprise given that former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts is its retail steward.
As noted in Apple’s press release, the luxe line of watches come in stainless steel with finely crafted leather bands in distinctive styles from the design vocabulary of Hermès, while respecting the design and functionality of the Apple Watch. “The collaboration merges Apple’s unparalleled product innovation with the heritage, iconography and craftsmanship of Hermès, creating a unique expression of Apple Watch.”
“Apple and Hermès make very different products, but they reflect the deep appreciation of quality design,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “Both companies are motivated by a sincere pursuit of excellence and the desire to create something that is not compromised. Apple Watch Hermès is a true testament to that belief.”
— Chrysi Philalithes (@Chrysi) September 9, 2015
Apple Watch also comes in a wider range of colors—including a (PRODUCT)RED edition that reflects Apple’s longstanding relationship with the AIDS-battling non-profit—and finishes, while it’s also integrating Facebook Messenger. As the video below shows, “Apple Watch was designed to enable millions of unique designs. Now, with new colors, new materials and advanced capabilities, the experience gets even more personal.”
And while it’s not unusual for Apple to bring other brand’s developers on-stage to show how their apps work on their products, as part of Apple’s B2B push with the iPad Pro, one of the companies invited to showcase their apps on the enhanced tablet was a particular surprise.
Microsoft Office head Kirk Koenigsbauer (above) and a colleague were invited to show how Office apps shine on the new iPad Pro (and not just on Microsoft’s tablets and devices). Adobe designer Eric Snowden was then invited up to demo a new software tool, PhotoShop Fix, which showed (alarmingly to some) how to digitally turn a frown into a smile. 3D 4 Medical also showed how a medical exam might work with iPad Pro.
The Apple and Microsoft combo made Mashable quip that “Hell freezes over” while observers on Twitter do a double-take, including NewYorker.com editor Nick Thompson:
A stylus. Then Microsoft. Then ADOBE! Steve Jobs is going to shoot a lightning bolt down soon.
— Nicholas Thompson (@nxthompson) September 9, 2015
— Jesse Miller (@MediatedReality) September 9, 2015
“Stylus,” by the way, refers to how iPad Pro is pitching business customers on an optional “Pencil” and a keyboard. Pencil offers greater precision and charges by plugging right into the iPad Pro via the lightning connector. And raising cheers from the audience, there’s a three-finger erase function to undo any document just worked on.
Thin and light, the iPad Pro boasts a 12.9 inch screen and performance similar to a desktop computer. “It’s the most powerful and beautiful iPad we’ve ever created,” said Cook, and “faster than 80% of the portable PCs that have shipped in the past 12 months.”
While iPhone 6 is the most popular iPhone to date, and its owners may be jealous when they see the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, with a 4.7 and 5.5 retina respectively and what Apple’s calling 3D Touch.
You can force touch an app icon to bring up shortcuts within that app, and force touch on the camera app icon and, for instance, press “Take selfie.” The phones also come in silver, gold, space grey and rose gold.
The 6S has an Apple Music icon to activate Beats Radio while “Live Photos” turns iOS images into animations. Other innovations include the strongest iPhone cover glass yet, twice as fast Touch ID, faster Wi-Fi and 4K video.
And in a direct blow to carriers, Apple announced a new subscriber model to make getting a new iPhone each year possible—,unlocked, including Applecare, starting at $32 a month—regardless of contracts. The pre-order date for the new iPhones is Sept. 12 with launch on September 25th.
The eagerly anticipated updated version of Apple TV has its own app store and a voice-controlled remote control, and starts at $149. “Our vision for the future for TV is apps,” said Cook.
Using Siri, Apple TV can rewind a video for 15 seconds and turn on subtitles. You can swipe the homescreen with the remote like it’s a trackpad, or make specific requests of Siri like, “Show me that one Modern Family episode with Edward Norton.”
Functionality skips ahead and back, and multi-screens show weather and sports scores simultaneously. Its tvOS apps demonstrated on-stage included apps from MLB, Airbnb, Guitar Hero and a fun demo of Crossy Road’s first multiplayer game. There’s even a Gilt shopping app as Apple TV becomes the new shopping mall and enables interactive browsing and buying.
And as promised in the “Hey Siri” Apple Event invitation, Siri is bringing voice recognition to Apple TV to help navigate its ecosystem of apps, content and functionality.
As Wired notes, “Siri now plays a huge role in Apple TV. It has universal voice-search functionality across iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Showtime, and it also lets users filter down existing search results by recognizing contextual spoken commands. You can also bring up weather, sports scores, and other info by just asking Siri for it.”