Apple WWDC Keynote: Moment of Silence for Orlando, Apple Music Redesign
Apple's annual, coder-focused Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off in San Francisco on Monday morning with the customary keynote from its major players.
This year, CEO Tim Cook began the event with a moment of silence following the tragedy in Orlando. "We celebrate our diversity -- we know that it makes us stronger. Please rise and join us in a moment of silence to honor the victims and the people who loved them."
Cook moved on to tout the total payout to date from the App Store -- $50 billion in total -- "paid out to developers." Last week, the company announced a significant change to its app store, incentivizing developers to bring customers onto subscriptions within their apps. The CEO indicated today's presentation would focus on the company's four main platforms: iOS, OSX, watchOS and tvOS.
watchOS received enhanced functionality in its update, including writing messages with the fingertip, improved speed and the addition of control center, like iOS. The team also introduced new watch faces and improved integration of activity trackers and its health information for emergency situations, including a new app, SOS. New activity tracking has been introduced for wheelchair users, with new algorithms designed to better serve the disabled. Another new app, Breathe, was debuted to encourage users to regularly take meditative breathing breaks throughout their days. The update will be released this fall.
Apple senior vp Eddy Cue took to the stage to introduce some updates to tvOS, which powers the company's AppleTV product, including a new iOS remote application featuring Siri command integration; new content partnerships including Sling; voice search of movies by topic as well as YouTube voice search and improved authentication through a new feature, "Single Sign-On," which is due for iOS as well.
Craig Federighi introduced the new name for Apple's desktop operating system -- good-bye OSX, hello "macOS." This year's update, continuing Cupertino's California-themed naming scheme, is called Sierra. Federighi introduced a useful productivity feature, "Universal Clipboard," which syncs copy-pasted material from desktop to mobile, and vice versa.
Updates to iCloud including storage optimization and "forever delete" functionality. More significantly, Apple Pay is being brought online, increasing the functionality of a complex business play for Apple. macOS also introduces "tabs everywhere," letting users treat documents as they do web pages. Most notably, Siri will finally be making the jump from mobile to desktop, with increased features such as file management.
iOS 10 has been redesigned with a new lock screen and enhanced notifications on the lock screen -- though many of the improvements focused on using 3D Touch technology, despite indications of late that people are holding on to their phones for longer periods of time, making it less likely that they even have the updated touch technology. As well, iOS' music player interface updated and the camera has been made more accessible.
Piggybacking on desktop's Siri update, Federighi announced that -- as expected -- Siri has been opened up for developers to integrate the voice technology into their own work. This is, as voice technology becomes more central to peoples' technology usage, practically a requirement of these offerings. (For more on voice technology, see our coverage here.)
"It's been an incredible year," said Eddy Cue, prepping the audience for the day's Apple Music revamp. The service now has "over 15 million" subscribers -- "we've learned a lot along the way," said Cue, introducing an "all-new Apple Music, redesigned from the ground up." As expected as the redesign was the demotion of the app's Connect tab, which is no longer featured on the bottom navigation and instead is subsumed into the "For You" tab. "More intuitive and familiar." Bozoma St. John, Beats' marketing director, introduced the new features, including lyrics for songs. Apple Music will also be integrated into iMessage, allowing listening directly from that app (the iPhone's most popular, according to Federighi).
Importantly, Apple's radio station Beats 1 has a much-improved -- and needed -- interface do-over, showing far more information on the relatively (until now) black-boxed, but anecdotally popular, music play.
Following the Apple Music update was a long presentation on iMessage, largely focused on updating its emoji featues and interactivity.
WWDC's 2015 edition introduced Apple Music with much fanfare -- in addition to an assist from Drake, former Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine made his WWDC debut -- but other announcements about a new version of the Apple desktop and mobile operating systems, along with the deletion of the largely ignored Newsstand app, were less impactful.
You could not say the same for 2016 in music, however. So far this year, exclusives by Drake and Chance the Rapper have helped Apple's streaming service cement itself as a formidable player, even with industry leader Spotify enjoying a healthy headstart. The service has drawn 13 million paid subscribers since launch -- less than half that of Spotify's 30 million, but impressive nonetheless considering its short runway.
Another success Apple can tout is Beats 1 Radio with veteran DJ Zane Lowe at the helm, which has received high marks for its free form-like playlist and access to in-demand artists for interviews. To wit: the soundtrack at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for WWDC was Lowe's show, during which Beats played the latest from Blink-182 ("Rabbit Hole"), Broods ("Heartlines"), Chvrches ("Bury It") and Chance the Rapper ("No Problem").
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