BEFORE Apple’s annual conference for software developers, which began in San Francisco on June 2nd, much of the hype surrounded health and the home. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, and his colleagues did indeed unveil new platforms for the chaotic and ever-growing range of applications to measure your heart rate or to control your garage doors from your smartphone.
More striking, though, was more fundamental stuff. As expected, Apple presented new versions of OS X, the operating system for its desktops and laptops, and iOS, for its mobile devices, both of which are available to developers immediately and are due to be released to the public in the autumn. OS X Yosemite (pictured) looks sharper than its predecessor, Mavericks, in everything from typography to the upgraded Safari browser. The new mobile system, iOS 8, has some neat improvements too. Messaging looks much more versatile—a response, maybe, to fast-rising messaging apps. Users will be able to respond to a message or like a Facebook post to which they have been alerted without leaving the app they are in.
Apple’s big pitch, however, was the way its new operating systems will enable OS X and iOS devices to work together. Start typing an e-mail on your iPhone, and your Mac will spot it. Click on an icon, and you can finish it on the desktop. If your iPhone rings, you will be able to take the call on your iPad or Mac—and, in effect, use them as speakerphones. Photos edited on one device will, thanks to cloud storage, appear immediately on another.
Such seamless switching, Apple believes, will give it an edge over its competitors in a mobile world. Microsoft has been trying to pull this off for a while: it was the sales pitch for Windows 8. Trouble is, though Microsoft still dominates the desktop, few people have a Windows Phone and almost no one has a Surface tablet. Mr Cook boasted that Apple’s customers are enthusiastic downloaders of the latest versions of its software, so its version of seamlessness may catch on. Among its mobile users, 89% have iOS 7, whereas just 9% of Android users have KitKat, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. In Macs, 51% of machines in use are powered by Mavericks—against only 14% for Windows 8 on PCs.
The announcements about mobile health and the connected home also seem intended to encourage people to live in an ecosystem shaped by Apple. The new HealthKit platform is intended to bring a lot of third-party apps into one place—so that a blood-pressure reading from one app, say, might trigger an alert and prompt a call from the doctor. A promised feature of the HomeKit platform is to group diverse apps, so that an instruction to the smartphone to “get ready for bed” in turn tells apps to lock the doors and dim the lights (but not yet to put the cat out).
All this brought whoops and applause from the developers (and Apple employees) in the hall. So did an overhaul of the App Store. Among other things, it will be possible to buy bundles of apps at a discount and see video previews before downloading. Viewed from outside, the mood at the event was one of self-congratulation, with predictable swipes at Microsoft and Google, and bordering on the smug. But then, Apple is a company with a lot to be smug about.
(Photo credit: Apple)
Powered by Facebook Comments