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Siri Goes Bing, iRadio, iOS 7: Major Highlights From The Apple Keynote
Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage this morning at the Apple developer conference (WWDC). He’s a man under pressure as many investors have turned bearish on the company.
Cook kicked the keynote off with a bunch of adoption and usage stats:
- The app store is 5 years old
- 375K iPad apps (vs. “just a few hundred from other guys”)
- 900K apps overall
- 50 billion apps downloaded to date
- App developers have been paid $10 billion by Apple
- 575 million accounts with associated credit cards (more on that in a minute)
- 600 million iOS devices sold to date
Cook said that Mac growth has outpaced the PC industry as a whole for “last several years.” In the past five years Macs have seen 15% growth vs. 3% year over year on average for PCs (now there’s negative growth).
OS X Updates Including Maps On The PC
Apple’s Craig Federighi then took over to talk about the new Mac OS X and software updates.
The new set of releases will no longer be named after “big cats.” They’ll be named after places in California. The first OS X update is named for the famed surfing spot “Mavericks.” It contains a range of user-facing improvements and under the hood changes that make the OS more efficient. Federighi also talked about performance improvements for Safari, benchmarked against Chrome and Firefox.
Apple previewed a new look for its desktop software. Skeumorphic (real-world mimicking) design, as expected, is gone (iOS 7 is where this change is most evident). The company is also bringing iBooks to the PC — and, more significantly, Apple Maps. Federighi said that Apple Maps had improved (hope so).
New Macbook Air Laptops & New (Small) Mac Pro CPU For Desktop
Apple’s Phil Schiller then came out to introduce the new line of Macbook Air laptops (available immediately) and Mac Pro desktop computers. The Air machines seem to start at the same prices as the previous generation.
The new Airs have longer battery life (9 hours for the 11 inch Air). Schiller told the crowd they would also offer 10 hours of movie playback. The company is introducing new “Airport” WiFi networking devices as well.
The Mac Pros desktop/CPU systems feature a design overhaul that makes them much more compact than their predecessors. And, they’re being built in the US. It’s not clear how many people are still using desktop PCs but it’s a minority. The market for the Mac Pro is probably enterprise users and creative professionals at this point.
Apple also introduced its iWork suite for iCloud, which emerges as a competitor for Google Docs and other cloud-based productivity suites. Everything is browser based. It works on all the major browsers.
Mobile: iOS 7
As expected Apple showed a preview of its next version of iOS — 7. In addition to a boatload of new features, it offers a dramatically different look and design aesthetic: “flat design.” Though long-anticipated, it’s a major break from the past iOS UIs.
Apple promises better battery life when multitasking with several apps. The new OS will also offer updates in the background (rather than manually). Android has been doing this for some time. However iOS 7 promises to do this in an “opportunistic” and intelligent way. For example, the most-often-used apps will get update priority.
Mobile Safari offers new features such as a full-screen UI and new browser tabs design. Apple also improved the photo app on the iPhone with a number of new features including new ways to review and organize photos.
The company introduced its Airdrop wireless sharing feature (only for the latest devices) and took a jab at Samsung/Android’s NFC sharing functionality (“you don’t have to bump phones”). Apple also teased that some car makers will be integrating the iOS UI into their car dashboard screens.
The new iOS will be available this fall and for developers (in beta) immediately. It’s available for iPhone 4 and later but only the latest generation devices otherwise.
Siri Now With More Realistic Sounding Voice (And Bing)
Playing catch up to Google, Siri now has a more real-sounding voice and the choice of a male voice in the US (one was available in the UK). Apple showed a few more capabilities for Siri, like adjusting settings and searching Twitter, Wikipedia — and Bing directly. Other than the more natural sounding voice, however, it appears to be a relatively minor upgrade.
As expected Apple announced iTunes radio. As you might expect, it’s deeply integrated with iTunes so you can buy music off iTunes Radio from iTunes. In a way you can look at it as a music-discovery front end for iTunes music purchasing. Apple said that iTunes radio will be free with ads or free without ads if you subscribe to iTunes Match.
In the end, there were no major surprises today — perhaps the Mac Pro CPU redesign qualifies as a surprise. But there were lots of interesting, smaller and mostly software-centric announcements. The market, always hoping for splashy product launches, is likely to see a sell off of Apple stock today.
Among all the announcements the iOS 7 update is the most significant. It may disorient some people. However it was an update that was arguably overdue and seems to offer a broad range of improvements that should be welcome as people actually use it.
We’ll drill down more into particular features and areas later.