So, starting with the new Apple stores in Shanghai and Hong Kong...
When it was finally time for the highly anticipated iPhone announcement, it was a bit of a letdown. Instead of the iPhone 5 that many were were hoping for, the big reveal ended up being the iPhone 4S, which others predicted might happen.
The iPhone 4S looks the same as the iPhone 4, but "inside, it is all new," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. It runs twice as fast because of a dual-core processor called the A5 chip that also powers the iPad 2.
With the iPhone 4S comes better graphics, battery life, camera quality, reception, and, oh yeah, further proof that robots really will take over the world and render us obsolete.
We're talking about Apple's new voice-recognition technology called Siri. Whereas dictating orders -- such as "call Mom" or "search cakes" has been possible for a while on smartphones, things just got way more creepy and awesome. (But still not as creepy as Furbys.) Now, you can ask the iPhone if you should wear a raincoat, tell it to text message Susie to tell her you're going to be late, set a 6 a.m. alarm, or check if you've already scheduled a meeting for Friday afternoon. And it talks back. "I am a humble personal assistant," the phone reportedly replied when it was asked, "Who are you?"
Even with this impressive technology, it remains to be seen how many people will upgrade to the iPhone 4S knowing that an iPhone 5 release is on the horizon.
A good chunk of the rest of the conference was devoted to Apple patting itself on the back and talking about upgrades to other products. Did you know, for example, that Mac users took to the Lion operating system 10 times faster than Windows users took to Windows 7? Now you do. At least Cook acknowledged that Apple still has a ways to go before world domination -- even though Siri is a great start. Only 23 percent of PC owners use Macs.
Journalists live blogging from the event noted that former CEO Steve Jobs, who recently stepped down, was nowhere in sight. Of course, Cook could not avoid comparisons. USA Today said that while Cook aptly delivered his first unveiling, he lacked Jobs' charisma.
So, essentially, he is the iPhone 4S to Jobs' iPhone 5.