Apple launched new iPads, but its latest M4 processor stole the show. The M4, and a heavy dose of AI talk, represented the latest effort by Apple to show that it won't be a generative AI laggard.

With its latest financial results, Apple CEO Tim Cook went out of his way to talk about AI, how it can fuel another hardware upgrade cycle and reiterate that the company is investing in the space. "We continue to feel very bullish about our opportunity and generative AI we are making significant investments and we're looking forward to sharing some very exciting things with our customers soon," said Cook last week.

Enter the M4 launch (and oh yeah the iPads). The M4 will power the new iPad Pro, use second-generation 3-nanometer technology and is a system on a chip that has up to a 10-core CPU and new 10-core GPU. M4 also has Apple's latest Neural Engine that can handle up to 38 trillion operations. And the kicker is that the M4 "is faster than the neural processing unit of any AI PC today," said Apple, which didn't mention a core count for its neural processing unit.

That AI PC reference has nothing to do with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors powering a wave of AI PCs coming and Microsoft's Surface event on deck I'm sure. 

Apple's M4 launch comes amid a Wall Street Journal report highlighting ACDC, or Apple Chips in Data Center. According to the WSJ, Apple is working on its own AI chips for its data centers. Then again, who isn't working on custom AI chips? Meta, AWS, Google and Microsoft all are building their own AI chips.

You can see where this is headed: WWDC and a lot of AI. Cook can't stop teasing WWDC and what'll be an AI-heavy narrative. He ended the iPad presentation with: "We can't wait to see what users do with these incredible new iPads. And we look forward to seeing you next month at WWDC where we'll talk about the future of our platforms. And share some exciting details about what's to come."

Constellation Research Holger Mueller said Apple can go a few directions with the AI theme. Mueller said Apple's AI theme is likely to feature a heavy dose of walled garden. Apple's AI strategy won't be about generative AI for all because it'll be designed more for the Apple ecosystem.

"At WWDC, Apple needs developers to build apps for the Apple Walled Garden AI (AWGAI)," he quipped.

And those iPads...

Lost in the M4 news was Apple's new iPads, which will go a long way toward revamping the tablet portfolio. The company launched two new iPad Pro models, 13-inch and 11-inch, with the M4 chip, Ultra Retina XDR display and new accessories with a new Apple Pencil Pro and Magic Keyboard. Apple claims the iPad Pro is the company’s thinnest product ever. With the launch, Apple appears to be positioning the iPad Pro as an AI PC killer--at least until new MacBooks launch.

The iPad Pro with M4 will feature silver and space black finishes with 256GB, 512GB, 1TB and 2TB configurations. The starting price for the 11-inch iPad Pro is $999 with Wi-Fi. The 13-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,299. An Apple Pencil Pro will run you $129 and the new Magic Keyboard will cost $299 for the 11-inch device and $349 for the 13-inch version.

The iPad Air, which has the M2 chip, comes in 11-inch and 13-inch versions, support for the Apple Pencil Pro. The 11-inch iPad Air starts at $599 and the 13-inch is $799.