SAN FRANCISCO - It was a different venue, but the same vibe, for Apple.
SEE THE NEW FEATURES | Slideshow Introducing the iPad Air
From a snazzy theater at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts here, the newest iPads and MacBooks were unfurled amid splashy ads, a finely tuned stage show and lots of whoops and hollers from a partisan crowd. Vintage Apple.
As these events (pep rallies?) go, it was a momentum builder in a market that is increasingly competitive for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers worldwide.
A long line of expectant attendees waited an hour outside to be reminded by Apple CEO Tim Cook inside that Apple is "not slowing down on innovation."
But with Google, Samsung, Microsoft and others fashioning new smartphones, tablets and - yes - smartwatches every other week, anything short of a major Apple product breakthrough has the whiff of a holding pattern That is the burden Apple carries, perhaps unfriendly, with so much press attention and attendant hype.
Product news preceding iPad had the feel of an opening act. Think Academy Awards ceremony, with a fast start followed by a long lull before a big finish. The thinner, 1-pound iPad Air was clearly a crowd pleaser and should rack up holiday sales.
Equally important, Apple hewed to two themes throughout its nearly two-hour presentation: "Free," and ."today." "We are turning the industry on its ear," Cook said.
Yet with the market awash in products with comparable features, Apple needs to alter its game plan to reclaim some of its turf eroded to Android.
* Geocaching takes you on a treasure hunt
* How Apple has changed since Steve Jobs
* Atlanta area woman is original voice of Siri
* 7 tips and tricks for navigating iOS 7
* iPhone 5S, 5C launch across the world
(Jon Swartz, USA TODAY)