Announcing TechCrunch Sessions, a new series of events focused on a single topic

Big news, folks! Today, TechCrunch is announcing a new series of events: Sessions. These events will dive deep on a single topic, bringing together experts in the field and those interested in the theme to discuss what matters.

Obviously, this is going to be huge!

These events will be single-day affairs with limited seating. Some will have intimate discussions with audience participation. Others will have interactive demos of the latest robotic and augmented reality technology. Yet at all the events we’re dropping the barrier between speaker and attendee, and allowing for plenty of interaction with networking time and a big reception at the end of the day.

There are a few Sessions planned for this year and they will be announced in the coming days and weeks.

Disrupt is not going anywhere and remains our flagship event. Disrupt NY is a few months away and the agenda is already packed with amazing speakers and panels. Disrupt SF hits San Francisco this September, and we’re returning to Berlin this December.

But each time one of our editors or writers walks off stage after a Disrupt fireside, all they want is more time to ask more questions. We can’t very well extend each Disrupt chat, but we can set aside a day a few times each year to dive into a topic and get our hands dirty.

 Whether it’s social justice, robotics, fintech, AR/VR, AI or something that’s yet to be unveiled to the world, it’s important that we take the time to fully understand the issues that loom on the horizon. Sessions will allow us to do that.

Every year, when planning Disrupt and our editorial coverage, we end up seeing a variety of big themes surface during the conference, but there’s not enough time to fully explore the area. With Sessions, we will bring together key individuals, companies, students, researchers and government agencies to discuss these issues at length.

As at Disrupt, TechCrunch editorial staff are programming these events. Hit us up with comments and suggestions.

We’ll be announcing our first topics soon! Can’t wait to see you at the next Session!

Surface Pro 3 vs iPad Pro: What Apple’s copied, what it does better

ipad pro super cropAfter launching a larger iPhone 5 Plus last year that mimicked phablets like the Lumia 1520, Apple has taken another page from Microsoft’s playbook with the Apple iPad Pro—which now includes a Surface-like keyboard and stylus.

Apple’s new iPad Pro—available from $799 to $1079, with storage ranging from 32GB to 128GB—will be available this November, a bit after the reported introduction of the Surface Pro 4. But for right now, the comparisons between it and the Surface Pro 3 are undeniable.

Before we dive into the hardware specs, let’s make one key software difference clear: The iPad Pro still runs iOS, instead of the full Windows desktop OS you can use on a Surface Pro. For many power users, that’s the difference between an accessory and an essential piece of equipment.

On the hardware side, two elements—the so-called Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil—are going to have Microsoft Surface fans whooping with glee. (They will be sold separately, as is the case with the Surface Pro 3’s accessories.)

ipad pro keyboard
Doesn’t this Apple Smart Keyboard look familiar?

Because the iPad still lacks a kickstand, the Smart Keyboard copies the foldover “origami” keyboard of Amazon’s tablets. Like the Surface, it connects to the tablet through three metal bumps, which transmit data as well as power. Unlike Microsoft’s Type Cover, the keyboard lies flat on the tabletop; and, like the Touch Cover, it’s made of fabric as well—an improvement over typing directly on glass, but probably not much. The keyboard will be available for $169, in November.

apple pencil 3
The Apple Pencil in action.

And then there’s the Apple Pencil, a $99 stylus that’s really long—about the length of an ordinary #2 pencil, it appears. It’s far longer than the stylus that ships with the Surface Pro 3 tablets, and it appears to lack a loop or even a docking port to connect to the tablet. It does, however, include a Lightning connector for charging.

Apple’s Schiller claimed that the iPad Pro and the new Pencil worked together to give the impression of nearly latency-free inking, supporting different levels of inking pressure. It has the precision to “touch a single pixel,” Schiller claimed.

ipad pro multitasking
Oh boy, multitasking! But not quite in…windows.

To support his claims, Schiller brought on stage executives from Microsoft—to show offOffice for the iPad—and Adobe, which demonstrated apps like Adobe Fix, allowing graphic artists to manipulate images digitally on the iPad.

ipad pro summary specs

Where the iPad Pro does better

In other ways, the iPad Pro jumps ahead of the Surface Pro 3. For starters it’s slightly larger, at 12.9 inches versus 12 inches. Apple hasn’t said how much memory is inside it, but Apple senior vice president of product marketing Phil Schiller said that the tablet includes a more powerful 64-bit A9X chip that’s faster than 80 percent of the PCs shipped in the last 12 months, and 90 percent more powerful, graphically.

The display boasts a higher resolution than the Surface Pro 3 as well: 2732×2048 pixels versus the 2160×1440 display offered by the Surface Pro 3. The battery life is a tad higher: 10 hours, versus 9 hours for the Surface Pro 3. Apple even showed off multitasking, dividing the screen between two different windows that could run different tasks.

For now, the iPad Pro’s hardware specs are arguably a tad superior to the Surface Pro 3’s. But while Apple may claim to have “reinvented” the idea of a productivity tablet with the iPad Pro, Surface owners know where Apple found its biggest ideas. We expect Microsoft to one-up Apple yet again with the Surface Pro 4.