| BY Anick Jesdanun
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — CEO Tim Cook is directing Apple’s big event Monday in San Francisco, unveiling a shiny, skinny and silent MacBook weighing in at just two pounds that the company says is the world’s most energy efficient laptop.
Apple also has unveiled a new deal between Apple TV and HBO, touted growth in iPhone sales and Apple Pay adoption, and announced a set of tools called ResearchKit to help hospitals and research centers develop apps for patients. It cut the price of Apple TV by $30 to $69 and is partnering with HBO to offer its stand-alone streaming service, HBO Go, on Apple devices in time for the “Game of Thrones” premiere April 12. It will cost $14.99 monthly. Cook said 2,500 banks are now signed up with Apple Pay, which is available in 700,000 retail locations nationwide.
Cook soon is expected to unveil the company’s newest device, the smartwatch, and make the case for why it’s a must-have gadget. Apple teased the smartwatch in September but has given few details. Scheduled to hit the market in April, industry watchers are eager to see if Apple’s version will be the tipping point for the sluggish smartwatch market. There was similar skepticism when Apple released the iPad in 2010, yet the company has successfully sold millions and its popularity has shaken up the PC market.
The stakes are high for a company that just dislodged AT&T as one of the 30 stocks comprising the venerable Dow Jones industrial average. The watch is the first brand-new device Apple has launched without Steve Jobs.
Below is a live blog of the event. All times PDT.
Cook says Apple took what it learned from designing iPhones and iPads and “challenged ourselves to reinvent the notebook.” Apple says the keyboard is more responsive, and the screen uses 30 percent less energy to offer the same brightness.
Apple is dropping many of the connection ports, such as USB, in favor of wireless technology. But when something needs to be connected, Apple is offering a single port that can be used for power charging, display output and accessories. It uses an emerging technology called USB-C.
Apple has been known to drop older technologies as new products come along. The MacBook Air got rid of a DVD drive long before others did, for instance.
Tim Cook unveils new MacBook, the thinnest and lightest version of its laptop in silver, space gray and gold finishes. Just 2 pounds and 24 percent skinnier than the MacBook Air. (Apple is dropping Air from the name and is calling this simply the MacBook.) Keys are bigger and backlit with LEDs; screen has 12-inch Retina display, currently available only in the higher-end, heavier MacBook Pro line. Force Touch trackpad allows for clicks, fast-forwarding, and more depending on how hard you press.
Also — it’s silent. No fan.
Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, addresses the role of Apple products in medical research. The company is creating a set of tools called ResearchKit to help hospitals and research centers develop apps for iPhone users to participate in studies. Apple says it’s working with leading researchers to develop apps for studies on diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease and other ailments. The Parkinson’s app, for instance, will monitor patients as they walk 20 steps to detect the progression of the diseases, which affects motor systems.
Apple says it won’t see any of the data to ensure privacy. ResearchKit, which will be open source, will be available next month. The first five apps are available today.
Cook says its Apple Pay mobile-payment service has expanded to 2,500 banks since launching in October with six credit-card issuing banks in the U.S.. The number of merchants accepting Apple Pay has tripled to nearly 700,000 across the U.S. That’s still a small fraction of all the retail outlets out there.
Cook announces a price cut for Apple TV to $69, from $99. He says 25 million units have been sold so far.
The availability of HBO as a stand-alone service comes as more people turn to the Internet to watch television. HBO previously was available on Apple devices, but only with a cable or satellite subscription.
Cook shows a trailer from the upcoming season of “Game of Thrones.”
Cook walks on stage to talk about Apple’s retail stores and offer an update on Apple TV. He’s joined by HBO CEO Richard Plepler to announce that Apple will be the exclusive partner of HBO’s upcoming stand-alone subscription service, HBO Now.
There will be a new HBO Now channel on Apple TV. It will be possible to get it on iPhones and iPads, too. The service will cost $14.99 a month and will be available in early April — in time for the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.”
The event begins with a video of an Apple store in West Lake, China. Customers holding Apple products cheer as employees count down to the opening of the store in January.
Journalists, industry analysts and Apple guests fill the auditorium of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for the start of the event.
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