OS X Mavericks Will Be Free and It’s Available Today Along with New Retina MacBook Pros

The tenth version of Apple's tenth operating system, OS X Mavericks, will be totally free and it's available today.

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The tenth version of Apple’s tenth operating system, OS X Mavericks, will be totally free and it’s available today, Apple software engineering honcho Craig Federighi revealed after demonstrating the software during Apple’s “Special Event” Tuesday afternoon.

Apple also updated both its 13- and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros, adding new processors, extending the battery life and significantly dropping the starting prices, indicating all models would be available to order from Apple’s online store immediately (a quick check with my local Apple Store indicates the models have already shipped and should be available to purchase at retail by the end of the week).

And last but not least, the company took the lid off the long-anticipated Mac Pro‘s hardware particulars and pricing, though Apple remained mum on a release date — marketing VP Phil Schiller teased the audience with a vague “before the end of the year” promise.

Interestingly, Apple CEO Tim Cook went out of his way at the outset to extol the company’s attention to the traditional PC market, saying:

Our competition is different, they’re confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they’ll do next. Well, I can’t answer that question, but what I can tell you is we have a very clear direction and a very ambitious goal. We still believe deeply in this category and we’re not slowing down on our innovation.

Federighi’s Mavericks demo was all retread, no surprise, since Apple’s been touting the OS X update’s new features for months. Federighi explained that Apple’s goal was to “fundamentally upgrade your hardware,” allowing you to get more from a Mac device’s battery and memory, as well as squeeze a little more out of the GPU. Federighi said that with a 13-inch MacBook Air, you’ll see up to an hour longer battery life when web browsing, and an hour-and-a-half more watching iTunes video. Mavericks can also compress memory instantly, said Federighi, referring to the OS’s ability to juggle apps more efficiently.

The most significant feature, of course, turned out to be Apple’s move to make point updates to OS X like Mavericks completely free (whether this applies to future versions, say Apple made another leap tantamount to the shift from OS 9 to OS X, remains to be seen). By making software as well as several of its core apps free, Apple seems to be drawing a we-design-hardware line in the sand.

Turning to the new Retina MacBook Pros, Schiller said the 13-inch Retina Pro is lighter as well as thinner, clocking in at 0.71-inches (the prior model was 0.75-inches, so the difference is slight). The entry-level configuration includes an Intel 2.4 GHz dual-core i5 Haswell processor, 4GB of DRAM, Iris integrated graphics, a 128GB solid state drive, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 2. Apple says it’ll deliver up to nine hours of battery life (that’s including using it for iTunes movie playback). And in keeping with the event’s price-reduction theme, whereas the prior 13-inch Retina Pros started at $1,499, the new 13-inch Retina Pro clocks in at just $1,299.

The 15-inch Retina Pro, by comparison, starts with an Intel 2 GHz quad-core i7 Crystal Well processor, 8GB of DRAM, Iris Pro integrated graphics (don’t worry, gamers: Nvidia’s discrete GeForce GT 750M GPU with 2GB of video memory — a bump up from the prior model’s GT 650M — is optional), a 256GB solid state drive, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 2. Apple says this model will deliver up to eight hours of battery life. And where the prior 15-inch Retina Pro started at $2,199, the new 15-inch Retina Pro will be priced at $1,999.

Finally, the Mac Pro: Apple unveiled its ebony, trashcan-shaped, server-class Mac refresh back in June, then put up a teaser page with design info, but kept specifics — including pricing — under its hat. No more. While we still don’t know when the Mac Pro will be available this year (that’s all we know — “this year”), Apple finally talked specs and pricing.

The Mac Pro will ship with an Intel Xeon E5 processor, available in quad-, 6-, 8- or 12-core configurations with up to 30MB of L3 cache and 40 lanes of PCI Express gen 3. Memory-wise, it’ll include up to 64GB of user accessible 1866 MHz DDR ECC, with a four-channel controller and up to 60GB/s bandwidth. The dual-workstation GPUs will be AMD FirePro graphics with up to 4096 stream processors, dual 384-bit memory buses and up to 12GB of GDDR5 VRAM for performance metrics like 528GB/s of total bandwidth and crunch power of up to 7 teraflops.

Schiller said the up to 1TB of user accessible flash storage (via PCIe controller) will offer up to 1.2GB/s reads and 1GB/s writes. And rounding out the spec sheet, the systems will come with Thunderbolt 2, “next-gen” video support for up to three 4K displays, Bluetooth 4, 802.11ac, HDMI 1.4, Ethernet and four USB 3 ports.

How much? Schiller listed a 3.7GHz quad-core Xeon, 12GB DRAM, Dual FirePro D300 video with 2GB of memory each and a 256GB solid state drive starting at $2,999.

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