Apple's little wonder and Microsoft's big baby

The iPad mini
The long-rumoured iPad mini is here

Some predictions never come true. Just because the Mayans say that the world will end in December 2012 doesn't mean it'll happen, and just because Liam Gallagher says he can make music that's better than Oasis doesn't mean he will.

Many people had filed predictions of an iPad mini in the same category, but it turns out that that one's the exception. The iPad mini lives!

As with many Apple launches, iPad minis may be scarce at first - so is it worth queuing up for? We've compared it to its most obvious rivals, the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD 7-inch, and the results were... inconclusive. It's a lovely bit of kit with an excellent ecosystem, but it's also considerably more expensive than Google and Amazon's offerings.

The price difference is partly because Apple doesn't do cheap and plasticky, and it's mainly because Apple isn't interested in a bargain basement battle. Apple's own Phil Schiller is firmly on message: he says that customers are already choosing normal iPads over Google and Amazon tablets, "and now you can get a device that's even more affordable".

The iPad mini wasn't the only new product: there was a new full-sized iPad too. That means the new iPad is now an old iPad because the new iPad with a retina display has been replaced by the new iPad With Retina Display. We hope that's clear.

So what does the iPad 4, as everybody's going to call it, have to offer? Not much: it's faster, it's got better wireless, and it's got a lightning connector, and it's going to annoy some existing iPad owners. Susie Ochs explains that some iPad 3 owners will be miffed: "We know a lot of people will feel betrayed, having thought they were getting the best Apple has to offer for at least a year".

Gary Marshall reckons iPad 3 owners should stop moaning. "The complaint isn't that Apple has killed anyone's iPads," he says. "It's that Apple has killed some iPad owners' bragging rights. I'm not sure we should be too concerned about that."

And then there's Surface

Microsoft has also had a tablety week, of course, with the release of Microsoft Surface alongside Windows 8.

Microsoft is clearly pumped about the new OS and understandably so as it prepares to launch its first Windows tablet alongside the new OS – Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft Surface

We got additional time with Surface this week

"We're very excited at reaching [this point], it's a pretty significant milestone for us," said Windows 8 marketing head Tami Reller in an interview with this very site. "As we look at this project, as we look at this product, we think it's the most ambitious thing since Windows 95.

"I know you've heard us say this before, but Windows 8 is Windows 7 but even better. And it is, whether its boot time, whether it's security, performance, whatever. There is a fairly stunning difference between Windows 7 – which was great – and the performance of Windows 8.

Upgrades and new PCs are available today - and the cheapo upgrade offer is available though January 31 - check out Windows 8 release date and price: all the latest details

The future is fusion

By the way, Apple's event wasn't just about iPads: in a single event we saw not one, not two, but five new products: refreshed iPads and Mac Minis, a new MacBook Pro, a new iMac and of course the iPad Mini. Our columnist was particularly taken by the new, super-skinny iMac: "Thanks to the new one, my iMac looks so fat that it should probably dress in a velour tracksuit and hang around Gregg's eating pasties."

Some of the new Macs get some new technology too. Mac Minis and the new iMac have the option of adding a Fusion Drive, which makes us wonder if Apple's working on an Infinite Improbability Drive somewhere in Cupertino.


The new iMac is super-thin

As we discovered, the Apple Fusion drive combines solid state storage and a traditional hard disk to deliver "the benefits of both kinds of storage without the downsides". We can't wait to test the Fusion drive to see if it's as fast as Apple claims.

For Gary Marshall, Apple's event was one in the eye for the Apple doom-mongers. "Now that Apple's well into the post-Steve era, it should be a mess. It should be releasing rubbish, trying to copy every rival, attempting to hit every price point and undoing all of Jobs' good work." It isn't doing any of those things, and the iPad event was an extraordinary show of confidence.

"Apple isn't perfect - anyone who used iOS 6's maps to get to the Apple event probably ended up in Norway - but it doesn't appear to be panicking either."

The TechRadar hive mind. The Megazord. The Voltron. When our powers combine, we become 'TECHRADAR STAFF'. You'll usually see this author name when the entire team has collaborated on a project or an article, whether that's a run-down ranking of our favorite Marvel films, or a round-up of all the coolest things we've collectively seen at annual tech shows like CES and MWC. We are one.