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Apple's answer to reignite iPad sales: A keyboard and a stylus

The consumer-electronics giant has borrowed from competitors, particularly Microsoft's Surface Pro computer, to juice its iPad's capabilities.

The new keyboard and pencil will be released in November alongside the iPad Pro. James Martin/CNET

What does it take to bring the iPad to the next level? Apple thinks the answer is a keyboard and stylus.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based tablet maker announced the new peripherals as part of its upcoming iPad Pro tablet, a monster device with a 12.9-inch screen, 70 percent larger than the iPad Air's 9.7-inch screen.

Apple said it designed the new tablet specifically with the keyboard and stylus in mind. The keyboard is meant to be easier to use on a whim, for instance. It has a special magnetic connector, and the iPad can automatically recognize when it's been hooked up and can hide the on-screen keyboard. Apple said it also designed a special fabric to cover the keys, making the device work well as a screen cover as well.

Though potentially revolutionary for Apple users, the moves follow trends in the larger computer industry. Microsoft offered a keyboard cover for its Surface laptops when they were released three years ago. The company added a stylus a year later. Other companies, such as Samsung, have also fielded similar accessories for their tablets over the years.

The introduction of an Apple stylus breaks with co-founder Steve Jobs, who railed against the technology when announcing the first iPhone in 2007. "Who wants a stylus?" Jobs said at the time, complaining about how annoying they are to carry around and store. "Nobody wants a stylus. So, let's not use a stylus."

Tim Cook has made similarly disparaging remarks about devices that try to marry tablet designs with a conventional computer.

Apple said the iPad Pro senses when people are using the stylus -- which the company calls the Apple Pencil -- and that the stylus reads on-screen traces more precisely. People can also charge the pencil by using the stylus' special "lightning" plug to plug it into the Pro.

Developers will be able to use the pencil to create images, Apple said. Microsoft and Adobe, makers of the widely used Office and Photoshop apps, demonstrated how people can easily draw on the iPad Pro's screen and integrate those drawings into their projects, such as a presentation or a new rendering.

For Office, the pencil also allows for new ways to work. "We can write in the margins," said Kirk Koenigsbauer, a corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We really believe bringing together the iPad Pro with Microsoft Office will really transform how people work on these devices."

The iPad Pro will start at $799 with 32GB of storage, launching in November. The keyboard will cost $169 and the pencil will cost $99.

Check out CNET's coverage of all of today's Apple news.