With the Microsoft Surface tablet launching on Friday alongside Windows 8, Apple wanted to make sure consumers still had the iPad at top of mind. Upgrading the big iPad to be faster will make those who were looking at the Surface as a productivity tool think twice about experimenting on an untested platform. For those who feel like the Surface is just too big and expensive, the iPad mini offers quite respectable power in a neat form factor that doesn’t feel too reduced. The Surface with Windows RT pricing starts at $499.

Apple Inc. met the expectations of many today with the launch of a 7.9-inch iPad mini tablet, but it didn’t stop there with its Fall event. It went on to announce a whole slew of products that take direct aim at Microsoft’s big Windows 8 announcement this Friday. Sure Apple was busy introducing new devices with its Lightening port, but what it was really doing was stealing Microsoft’s thunder.

Let’s take a quick look at the products Apple unveiled and how they will compete against what Microsoft is offering with Windows 8. (I also appeared on BNN to discuss the Apple event just after it wrapped up, you can watch that clip on BNN.)

iPad mini and fourth generation iPad

Apple is positioning the iPad mini as an iPad 2 that’s been compacted even more. The same 1024×768 resolution is fit into the 7.9-inch screen, and it has the same dual-core A5 processor. The cameras are also the same, and the cellular version connects to 3G and 4G networks that are HSPA+ or EVDO, but not LTE. The starting price is $329 for 16 GB.

With the refreshed full-sized iPad, we see the familiar 9.7-inch screen with the retina display (a resolution of 2048 by 1536). The processor and graphics power has been upgraded to a dual-core A6X chip with quad-core graphics. The cameras remain the same, with a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back and a 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera on the front. The Lightening connector replaces the old iPod connector, and the cellular model will support LTE networks. As always, the iPad starting price is $499.

With the Microsoft Surface tablet launching on Friday alongside Windows 8, Apple wanted to make sure consumers still had the iPad at top of mind. Upgrading the big iPad to be faster will make those who were looking at the Surface as a productivity tool think twice about experimenting on an untested platform. For those who feel like the Surface is just too big and expensive, the iPad mini offers quite respectable power in a neat form factor that doesn’t feel too reduced. The Surface with Windows RT pricing starts at $499.

Apple has calculated its timing with the iPad release perfectly, even starting to take pre-orders Oct. 26, the very same day Microsoft Corp. will be doing its big launch event. Microsoft’s advantage may be in the keyboard cover for the Surface, whereas Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad must be bought separately.

MacBook 13-inch retina display

Apple added the 13-inch MacBook to its retina display lineup, having already released the 15-inch version earlier this year. Starting at a price point of $1,699, its specs consist of a 2.5 Ghz dual-core Intel i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB solid state disc, and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip.

The new MacBook is about one-quarter thinner than the previous 13-inch model. This product is potentially disruptive to the Ultrabooks that will be sporting Windows 8. Following a set of standards created by Intel Corp., PC manufacturers have already been making these thin, light, laptops with long-lasting batteries. Now those laptops will be getting Windows 8, and many of them will also offer a touch screen – something the MacBook still doesn’t offer.

But by offering a great screen and slim form factor, Apple will win over many laptop buyers. But the price tag may cause some to think twice, especially with more affordable Windows 8 options on the market.

New iMac

Finally, we have a new desktop computer from Apple with an updated, much-thinner iMac. It will come in 21.5-inch and 27-inch screen sizes with high resolution displays. The new iMacs all feature quad-core Intel Core i5 processors, at least 8 GB of memory, and at least 1 TB of hard drive space. The new iMacs also feature a “fusion drive” that will include a solid state disc and IDE disc on one logical drive. Some sort of magic will determine what applications you use the most and place that on the speedier SSD space, alongside the OS itself.

Prices for the new iMacs range from $1,299 at the low end to upwards of $1,999 at the high end.

Here, Apple is seeking to protect its all-in-one PC crown. We’ve seen some Windows 7 based all-in-one desktops on the market, but with Windows 8, we’ll really see a focus on this form factor from manufacturers. Especially since it can incorporate touch screens and more dynamic track pads.

The prices on these iMacs are fairly competitive for desktops, and the design is stunning. Consumers looking for a pretty piece of hardware to showcase in the living room will be won over, as will power users that want to create rich media experiences. Microsoft and its partners’ advantage may still be in the touch screen desktops, and offering all-in-ones at a better price point.

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  • Gisabun

    Typical of Apple. Everyone knew when Microsoft would have their launch. Meanwhile Aopple waits until the last moment to showcase their latest gadgets.
    Oh. Why the new iMacs? I though someone at Apple [now who can that be] said the “PC” is dead?

  • Kymster

    And you don’t think Microsoft wouldn’t have done the same, or even you wouldn’t have if you were running Apple. Give me a break this is a competition. Apple should be applauded for their foresight and ability to produce such great lineup and release it when they did. I do wish they had introduced iMacs with touch screen though. You may want to turn on auto-spell on your iPhone.