Apple Pushes Display Story at iPad Mini Launch

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Apple (AAPL) Retina display, first seen six months ago with the new iPad, is now being featured across the Apple PC line, including on the new Apple iPad Mini, whose price starts at $329.

CEO Tim Cook brought the numbers and senior vice president for marketing Phil Schiller ran the demos, not just on the new Mini, but on a new iPad 4 and a complete refresh of the iMac and Macintosh lines, all built around the Retina display.

What's missing? A DVD or optical drive, which now becomes an accessory across the product line. And hard drives are disappearing, coming in only at the top end of the iMac line -- even there, they are offered in combination with chip memory as a new "Fusion Drive" that stores what you use most on chips, automatically, only using the hard drive for deep back-up.

The idea now is that your finger is the mouse, the network is how you get stuff, the screen is at the center of the experience, and everything else is peripheral.

Schiller emphasized the edge-to-edge glass construction on the new MacBook, and how the iPads now use the same aluminum-to-glass construction technique, making a product line that's much smaller and lighter across the board.

As senior vice president of industrial design Jonathan Ive said in a film played during the event, "If all we had done was take the iPad and reduce it, you would have just seen what was missing. What we did was design a concentration of what we had before."

This means the iPad Mini has the same screen resolution as the iPad 2, yet it weighs .68 pounds and is just 72 mm thick. (Yes, they mixed measurement systems - Google says that's about .31 kg in weight, 2.8 inches thick at the center.) The event's "glory shot" was of Schiller holding the new Mini in one hand, which drew the loudest applause of the morning.

The pricing is aggressive, but still premium. The new iPad 4 has the same $499 price as the product it replaces. The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,699. The desktop or "All In One" (because the processing is built into the monitor) iMac starts at $1,299, and there's a Mac Mini, basically a box-like home server, starting at $999.

That last was thrown in almost as an after-thought, but with 802.11n WiFi moving bits at 100 mbps, it's easy to see Mac Minis moving to homes that have standardized on iMacs as the home PC and iPads in every room, all networking wirelessly so content is shared and there's plenty of room for home automation applications down the road. (A complete iHouse with a desktop, server and 4 iMacs would thus set a family of four back about $4,000.)

Tim Cook bored some of the media watching at home with his statistics, but these are where investors should be salivating.

The 100 millionth iPad was sold two weeks ago, and iPads represent 91% of tablet traffic. Customers have downloaded 35 billion apps on the Apple AppStore, where there are now 700,000 to choose from, 275,000 of them written especially for the iPad line. In just one month the new iOS6 operating system was downloaded 200 million times.

Cook was emphasizing Apple's huge lead within its niche, while Schiller was showing that the engineering revolution begun by Steve Jobs is continuing, perhaps at an even faster pace. It's not revolution, it's evolution -- but it's evolution on steroids.

Investor reaction to the announcements, on a down day for the street as a whole, was profoundly negative, with the stock dropping 2.35% by 2:30 PM on a day when the Nasdaq was down less than 1%.

The computers aren't the only things on sale. I'd call Apple a bargain here as well.

At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL, 10 big shares.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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