Apple Inc. kicked off its annual developers conference in San Francisco, where the company is unveiling improvements to its mobile and PC software, tools to speed up smartwatch applications and a revamped streaming-music service.
Following a parody film starring comedian Bill Hader, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook took the stage to outline what’s to come. He handed the spotlight to Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software, who showed off software updates. Jennifer Bailey, head of Apple Pay, unveiled rewards and loyalty programs and said the mobile-payment system will work in the U.K. starting next month. The company also showed off a news aggregation app for mobile devices, called News.
Cook is counting on new features and innovations in Apple software to keep driving momentum for the larger-screened iPhones that have helped the company report two straight quarters of record profit. The more than 1.4 million apps for iPhones and iPads have helped create an ecosystem for Apple devices that makes the company’s products more appealing and users more loyal.
“WWDC is meant to provide a road map of what is coming up the next several months, and like all good fan boys and fan girls, we await with rapt attention every so often for Apple’s best (fill-in-the-blank) yet,” said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, via e-mail. “Apple needs to stay or at least appear in pace with the competition.”
Federighi started with the update to Apple’s Mac operating system called OS X El Capitan. He showcased features such as a split-view option in windows, the ability to pin websites in Safari, and better Spotlight searches that include sports scores and weather predictions.
He also announced the rollout of an updated mobile operating system, iOS 9, which incorporates new search and Siri features. He highlighted new functions that Apple calls proactivity, which suggests music when the user is going for a run, or apps that might be useful at specific times of day. This new proactive personal assistant follows Google Inc.’s own predictive mobile software, called Google Now.
The weeklong conference, called WWDC, attracts third-party app developers from around the world to learn about changes in software for the company’s iPhones, iPads and Macintosh computers. More than 5,000 people were expected to attend today’s keynote address.
The rollout of Apple’s new streaming-music service, also expected to be unveiled Monday, will show the fruits of its $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics last year. The deal, which included the company’s popular headphones and speakers as well as Beats Music, was aimed at bolstering Apple’s efforts at a time when the music industry’s revenue from streaming is on pace to exceed sales from downloads, according to MusicWatch.
Apple, which upended the music business more than a decade ago by selling individual songs online, has helped push artists to new levels of stardom through its iTunes service and by featuring them in commercials or promotions. Though Apple remains the largest music retailer in the world, its place as an industry tastemaker is being challenged by Spotify and Google Inc.’s YouTube.
Spotify has more than 60 million users -- with a quarter of them buying the $9.99-a-month ad-free subscription. Music is the most popular genre on YouTube’s video service, which attracts more than 1 billion users a month. YouTube also has a new ad-free streaming program called Music Key for $9.99. Pandora Media Inc., the largest online radio service, finished the first quarter with 79.2 million monthly active listeners, with most using its free ad-supported service.
Cupertino, California-based Apple had foreshadowed that it will also preview a software development kit to let programmers write apps on the new Apple Watch directly and to access the device’s sensors. That new ability could help speed up third-party apps on the Watch, which went on sale in April. It’s the company’s first new gadget in five years, and a test of Apple’s ability to succeed in new product categories.