© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Apple logo is seen in this illustration taken March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
By Stephen Nellis
CUPERTINO, California (Reuters) – Apple Inc (NASDAQ:) on Monday revamped its lineup of desktop and laptop Macs using its own processor chips ahead of its expected announcement of its first mixed-reality headset.
Apple did not make any major announcements about generative AI products similar to ChatGPT or Google (NASDAQ:)’s Bard search engine, but it quietly imbued several smaller features with AI, like live transcriptions of voice mails.
Apple announced a 15-inch MacBook Air powered by an Apple-designed M2 processor chip. The laptop with six speakers will start at $1,299 and be available next week. The 13-inch MacBook Air will drop to $1,099.
Apple updated its Mac Studio desktop machine, saying its new M2 Ultra chip can process artificial intelligence work that rival chips do not have enough memory to handle.
Apple also introduced a new version of the Mac Pro, its highest-performing desktop, with an M2 Ultra chip and a price tag starting at $6,999. The M2 Ultra chip is essentially two of Apple’s largest M2 chips bonded together, a similar approach Apple took to boosting the performance of its M1 chips.
Until Monday, the Mac Pro was the last computer in Apple’s lineup that still used an Intel (NASDAQ:) chip.
“For PC users, there’s never been a better time to switch to a Mac,” said John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering.
The updates combine improvements to high-end machines aimed at the developer crowd at Monday’s event with tweaks to messaging and a new Mac Air aimed at a much broader group of customers, including potential switchers to Apple.
Apple introduced small tweaks to its iOS software, some aimed at small annoyances like a “NameDrop” feature to more easily share contact information with others and others focused on safety and security, like a check-in feature to tell contacts when a user has arrived safely at a destination.
Apple said that it was improving the auto-correct feature on iPhone keyboards.
“In those moments where you just want to type a ducking word, well, the keyboard will learn it, too,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief.
The big highlight of the day is expected to be Apple unveiling a mixed-reality headset, its first big move into a new product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch nine years ago.
The launch will see Apple test a market crowded with devices that have yet to gain traction with consumers and put it in direct competition with Facebook-owner Meta Platforms.
Like Meta’s Quest Pro from last year and Quest 3 announced last week, Apple’s device is likely to blend a video feed from the outside world with a virtual world displayed on screens inside the headset.
Shares of the iPhone maker rose 2% to hit a record high of $184.95 ahead of the expected launch on Monday. Intel fell 3.5% after the Apple announcement.
Analysts expect Apple’s headset to come with premium features including a high-quality display and hand-tracking so it can be controlled without an external controller. It’s also likely to cost much more than the planned $500 Quest 3.
Investors and tech fans alike will focus on how much Apple’s view of the virtual reality market overlaps with Meta’s. Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has outlined his vision for using headsets to dip in and out of a “metaverse” where people can meet virtually to work, play and spend.
In addition to Meta, Sony (NYSE:) Group Corp and ByteDance-owned Pico both recently released virtual reality devices.
Research firm IDC said companies sold a total of 8.8 million headsets last year, down 20.9% from 2021. In the first quarter of 2023, sales more than halved.
This story originally appeared on Investing