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Apple ramps up MacBook infused with touch controls
[SAN FRANCISCO] Apple on Thursday unveiled new MacBook Pro laptops infused with touch control features that people have embraced on smartphones.
MacBook Pro models shown off at a special event at Apple's headquarters in Silicon Valley touted keyboards with "Touch Bar" controls where function keys have traditionally been positioned.
Touch Bar adapts to display controls most relevant to whatever application is being used, from email or typing text to video editing or music mixing, demonstrations showed.
New MacBook Pro models with 13-inch and 15-inch screens also had "Touch ID" fingerprint reading sensors built into power buttons, meaning that people will be able to unlock machines or make online purchases using fingers to confirm their identity.
Apple senior vice-president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller referred to new MacBook Pro models as the "gold standard" in notebook computers.
A MacBook Pro with a 13-inch screen and Touch Bar had a starting price of US$1,799, while an upgraded model with the same screen size but a traditional keyboard was priced at US$1,499.
A 15-inch MacBook Pro with the touch control technology built in had a starting price of US$2,399.
Apple began taking orders on Thursday, with touch-enhanced models promised to begin shipping within three weeks and the standard keyboard version available immediately.
"Apple now has the most compelling and coherent lineup of laptops it's had in several years," said Jackdaw Research chief analyst Jan Dawson.
"But, Apple's laptops no longer enjoy the kind of big hardware advantage they've had in the past."
The event came a day after Microsoft unveiled a high-end computer along with an updated Windows operating system that showcases three-dimensional content, touch-screen capabilities, and "mixed reality."
The US tech giant announced its first desktop computer, called Surface Studio, a US$3,000 high-end "all-in-one" device that aims at creative professionals, a segment dominated by Apple.
Microsoft also announced an updated Surface Book - its high-end convertible tablet-computer - which will sell for US$2,400, adding improved graphics and computing power and with an estimated 16 hours of battery life.
Microsoft is aiming to keep users on Windows as many switch to new mobile devices powered by Apple or Google software.
Apple is intent of guarding the loyalty of Mac users and winning new fans to its ecosystem.
Shipments of Apple computers slipped to 4.42 million in a decline of slightly more than eight per cent from the same period a year earlier, according to industry tracker IDC.
Industry reports released this month showed that shipments of personal computers overall slid anew in the recently ended quarter as lifestyles continued to shift to smartphones and tablets.
Apple on Thursday also introduced a new TV application crafted to use iPhones, iPads and internet-video streaming boxes hubs for television viewing.
"Now, there is a unified TV experience; one place to discover and enjoy your favorite TV show and movies across all your devices," Apple chief executive Tim Cook said at the event.
Siri virtual assistant is built into the TV application, allowing people to ask for shows or searches naturally, a demonstration showed. The software allows for viewing live broadcasts and can search out content available in other applications on Apple TV.
Notably absent from Apple's television mix was leading on-deman video streaming service Netflix.
"The new TV app should make Apple TV easier to use, and create something more analogous to the programming guides on pay TV services," said Mr Dawson.
"However, Apple's ability to get holdout app makers like Netflix on board will determine how useful the app ultimately is - the proposition breaks down pretty quickly if major apps are missing."