Apple announces new iPads ahead of big services push

Apple unveiled new iPads on Monday, including a new 10.5-inch iPad Air and a new iPad mini both with Apple Pencil support, ahead of its big services announcement scheduled for next week.

With both new iPads getting support for the Apple Pencil, Apple is increasingly pushing the mindset that the iPad, once thought of as a content consumption device, is capable of creating content as well.

“iPad continues to provide magical new experiences for a growing range of uses where it is the absolute best device, from playing games in augmented reality to note-taking and drawing with Apple Pencil, from streaming HD movies and editing 4K films to learning to develop apps with Swift Playgrounds,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing in a statement. “Today the iPad family takes two big leaps forward with an all-new 10.5-inch iPad Air that brings high-end size, features and performance at a breakthrough price, and a major upgrade to the 7.9-inch iPad mini, which also brings Apple Pencil, Retina display and the A12 Bionic chip to the many customers that love its compact size.”

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Both devices are available in a variety of different configurations and colors and start at $399 for the new iPad mini and $499 for the new iPad Air. Apple also said that both iPads are available to order today and will be in stores next week, Apple said.

Apple's services push

The announcement comes as Apple is increasingly focusing on its Services unit, which CEO Tim Cook has said would double by 2020 in revenue levels from 2016.

Apple is expected to unveil two new subscription services on March 25, including the oft-rumored video service designed to compete with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that five of the first shows that Apple has funded as part of its big content push have already been completed, including shows from Hollywood superstars such as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and M. Night Shyamalan, among others. Apple, which has not yet given a name to the streaming service, is also said to be wooing other cable companies, such as HBO, Starz and Showtime ahead of the launch, according to Bloomberg.

The Cook-led Apple is said to be spending at least $1 billion on content, a venture that has been marred by reports of intrusion from Apple executives wary of content that might be considered overly graphic or anti-technology.

Earlier this month, The New York Post reported that Cook had been seen on set on one of the Apple-funded shows "See," a futuristic sci-fi drama starring "Aquaman" star Jason Momoa. Several of the company's top brass, including Cook himself, have been giving notes to writers and showrunners, a process that has been deemed "intrusive," according to the Post's sources.

Apple's push into television and movie making is being led by two executives it hired away from Sony, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who were responsible for shows such as "Breaking Bad" and "The Goldberg's."

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Fox News first began reporting of Apple's push into film-making in 2017, when it began to look for production space in Southern California.

In addition to the Netflix-like service, Apple will also reportedly announce a new subscription service for magazines and newspapers, based off the company's 2018 acquisition of Texture, a digital magazine subscription service.

Apple may also introduce a branded credit card, as Bloomberg reported that journalists covering the payments industry have been invited to the event. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported Apple was teaming up with Goldman Sachs for a credit card that would have iPhone-centric features in a bid to help users manage their money.

Apple currently has its own mobile payments offering, known as Apple Pay, which allows users to input their debit and credit cards into their iPhone and tap point-of-sale systems to pay for goods such as sandwiches and coffees.

Apple said revenue from its Services offering totaled $10.9 billion in its most recent quarter, up 19 percent year-over-year.