Apple's annual World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) is now under way in San Francisco, and Apple has announced a number of new things centered around its MacBooks, it's desktop/laptop operating system (Mountain Lion), and of course iOS. As always, Apple had plenty to wow the audience, for the most part diehard Apple geeks and developers. Tim Cook took the helm, followed by Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing speaking on the MacBooks, and followed by Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President of iOS Software.
Cook presented some compelling overall Apple numbers: there are now 400 million registered App Store user accounts (complete with credit cards and buying capability); there are now 650 thousand apps, 225 thousand of them for the iPad; users have downloaded 30 billion apps, which in turn has resulted in $5B in iOS developer revenue. There is currently App Store access in 120 countries, with 32 additional countries being added this year. Overall, quite heady stuff for a retailer, let alone for a hardware vendor.
The MacBook "Next Generation" will weigh in at under 4.5 pounds, and will deliver a retina quality display boasting 2880x1800 resolution (that is a pixel density of 5,184,000 pixels, or 4 times any previous display resolution), along with what Apple claims is a 75 percent reduction in screen glare. If you've seen the New iPad, imagine that quality now pushed up to the much larger MacBook screen size.
Last, but far from least, the next gen MacBook will be .71 inches thick. What does that mean? Well, take a look at the images shown immediately below. It is rather impressive.
That is the MacBook Air on the left, and the new MacBook on the right.
What is interesting to think about here is the level of "mobility" that is now finding its way to powerful laptop machines with capabilities that far surpass anything that can be done on an iPad.
iOS 6.0 - Making the User Experience Better
Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President of iOS Software next took the stage to highlight what is coming down the road with iOS. First, a few quick numbers are worth noting. Apple has now sold 365 million iOS devices, and 80 percent of them now run iOS 5.x. Forstall compared this to Android, which, by Apple's reckoning has managed to land Android 4.0 on 7 percent of Android devices.
iOS 6 will deliver over 200 new features within a larger set of key features. Siri is being significantly enhanced, though we won't provide any details on Siri here, other than to note that Apple is in the process of working with all the key car manufacturers on hands-free Siri integration. We'll come back to this in a different context in short order.
As expected, there will be deep Facebook integration - in fact that integration extends down to direct integration within iOS 6. Facebook users will merely need to go to iOS settings, enter their login and password info and they will be ready to go. In addition there will be integration with the App Store and iTunes. There is much more that takes up a good number of those 200+ features, but we will need to forgo covering much more here.
Facetime is also getting a major facelift, so to speak. Primarily Apple will add the ability to run Facetime over cellular, a key upgrade that will make Facetime a much more valuable product. The iPhone Phone app is also delivering new features, among them the ability to change call status on the fly, as well as granular control over such new features as "Do Not Disturb."
Probably the most anticipated new feature is Apple's entirely new, in-house built (through connecting a series of acquisitions the company has made, i.e. Placebase, C3 Technologies and Poly9) Map application. It is a vector-based approach, which means that map rendering in real time is enormously fast and smooth. Apple is covering the entire world with highly detailed maps, including 3D renderings. Local listings are another priority, with 100 million global business listings for local search in hand to date.
There is also a traffic service tied to brand new built-in turn by turn navigation, which is in turn tied to the new Siri hands-free capability. The built-in turn by turn navigation monitors traffic, will reroute based on traffic and will deliver constantly updated ETA. Finally, there is also a new 3D Flyover feature which renders 3D map images in real time.
Shown below is the new Siri-integrated turn by turn navigation feature. Siri is providing turn by turn directions during the demo.
Shown below is the 3D Flyover view in action. The user can rotate the view in any way, including changing the elevation viewpoint.
Coming in the Fall
Apple has released a beta SDK to its developers at WWDC, and iOS 6 itself will ship in the fall, no doubt tied to new hardware releases of the iPhone. There hasn't been much in terms of clues to what to expect, but the thinness of the new MacBook coupled with knowing that Apple is in the process of using a new 4 inch - rather than 3.5 inch - screen suggests we may be seeing a larger and thinner iPhone in a few months. iOS 6 will support the iPhone 3GS and later, as well as the iPad 2 and later releases.
So what has Apple accomplished? It has clearly targeted improving the user experience, and in providing what might be called subtle touches to the UI and feature set that overall will keep the Apple faithful in the fold. Clearly. And it leaves us anticipating - without Apple needing to do any marketing - what the Fall will hold. Once again, it will put the likes of Samsung, Nokia and the rest of the Android players into a holding position in many cases - it is what Apple does best.
Finally, it has put Google on notice. The use of Google Maps is likely to drop by as much as 40 percent from its current base. That would lead to a substantial revenue hit for Google. Whether or not that will matter to Google remains to be seen, but Apple has made the next move on the chess board. With Android 4.0 only residing on 7 percent of Android devices (at least to hear Apple tell it), where will Google go next? Can it push enough new features and enough Android 4 devices into the field before the next wave of iPhones hit?
We only know one thing - it will be fun to watch. And don't let any pundit tell you Apple's teams are "losing it." They aren't.