10 Highlights From Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference
Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference opened in San Francisco today with as much fanfare as a coronation, or a Rose Day Parade for nerds.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO
Amid sunny sales projections and lighthearted disses on Android, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the Cupertino company's new crown jewels, the OSX Mavericks operating system for your laptop, and the iOS 7 for your iPhone, both available to developers now; the rest of you can access it this fall.
1. Privacy. Oof. Facepalm. We know privacy is a big third-rail issue for Apple -- and every other big tech company -- after the whole PRISM debacle. But the company has built new software fig leaves into its Safari browser that allow users to block third-party cookies.
2. Maps. Yeah, okay. We know how Apple was panned for its map system in iOS6, which was supposed to compete with Google, but instead displayed false data location for entire countries. (A Tumblr dedicated to Apple's mapping failures included instructions like "turn left into the water.") But this year, Apple has renewed its bid for mapping supremacy. The company's Senior Vice President of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demonstrated by displaying street-view photos of the Eifel Tower.
3. Apple is bringing iBooks to the Mac. That means you can import a full electronic library from all your iOS devices, or any of the 1.8 million titles available on iTunes. It also puts an end to the days when students carried around giant hard-cover copies of the latest Norton anthology, or when "Can I carry your books?" actually worked as a pickup line.
4. For all of you with a Windows fetish: Safari now has more memory, which means that you can open more tabs at once and glide seductively between them. According to Federighi, neglected open windows consume less energy on Safari than they would on Chrome or Firefox, which makes it more suited for one of the great pleasures of web surfing.
5. Cook promises there's a lot more buried "under the hood."
6. The new MacBook Air has all-day battery life. Which means you can watch almost the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy without plugging in, said Apple executive Phil Schiller. Also: the new MacBook Airs start shipping today.
7. Then there's the new Mac Pro, which is this weird, sleek, black, cylindrical thing that performs all the duties of a powerful desktop computer, albeit with one-eighth the volume and a "thermal core." This Pro is apparently so hot, it demanded its own apocalyptic theme music. "Can't innovate any more, my ass," Schiller said, promising that the California-made Pro will go to market later this year.
8. Apple's credo for the iOS: "There's a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity," according to Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design. Ergo: new typography, a new color palette, a translucent screen, depth perception, and a phone interface that's so intuitive and deferential, it "responds to your movement."
9. Siri has a new voice, and it's really sexy. In fact, Siri can now accommodate male voices.
10. Apple's new music streaming feature, iTunes Radio, is built into its music application. It's poised to battle well-established streamers like Pandora, which just introduced a spate of new features of its own, in a last-ditch effort to stay ahead. It's also given Apple a new way to squeeze revenue out of the multi-billion-dollar radio industry.
All Things D writer Peter Kafka cast doubt on Apple's ability to crack the radio ad market, which, he says, is mostly bolstered by local businesses who respond better to marketing efforts from a human sales team, than to granular targeting of user preferences. But the feature could definitely sell more iPhones.
Bonus highlight: Al Gore made a few cameos.