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Apple Mum On New Products

Apple unveiled lots of small tweaks and improvements to its mobile and computer operating systems during the World Wide Developers Conference but none of the big game-changing news some had expected. David Lieberman reports.

apple__121030091136Apple‘s software updates and new services presented at today’s World Wide Developers Conference may excite its fans. But they didn’t impress company watchers hoping to hear something that will reinvigorate the company as its main profit drivers — the iPhone and iPad — lose market share to competitors. For example, the company offered nothing new about its acquisition of Beats Audio, or about Apple TV. Shares were down about 1% shortly after the event ended.

CEO Tim Cook said that the goal was to offer a seamless experience to people who access services and data from different Apple devices. He announced iOS 8, which he calls “a giant release.” An update to Apple’s Safari web browser will  handle HTML5 video, giving users the capability to watch streaming services including Netflix without a separate plug-in. This could be important to Hollywood, because it should take away another barrier to a TV-like experience on consumer tablets, phones and computers.

Enhancements to Apple’s Mail program include predictive typing and the ability to delete a message with a single finger swipe. Users can respond to messages without exiting another app. Senders can designate messages that self destruct. In addition, Mac Mail will be able to handle drawings including signatures on PDF documents. Apple will open its famously closed system somewhat by giving users better access to third-party keyboards, and new ways for developers to incorporate the Apple TouchID fingerprint scanner that provides personalized security on the newest iPhones. Apple also introduced HealthKit, an app that tracks the user’s data, and HomeKit, which can send commands to smart-home devices so people can remotely control lights, security systems, heating and air-conditioning systems and other Net-connected products. 

Apple unveiled its updated OS X, code-named Yosemite, that’ll be available in the fall, and will look more like apps on iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. The two operating systems are continuing to get closer and closer in look and feel, but remain separate platforms for separate kinds of devices. The company also announced its iCloud Drive, a cloud-based storage service similar to Dropbox and Google Drive. The first 5 GB are free; you can go to 20 GB for 99 cents a month and 200 GB for $3.99 a month. Users can upload photos to share across devices and with others. 

Those with Macs and iPhones can make phone calls directly from their computers, and dial directly from phone numbers on a Web page. Caller ID info will appear on screen for incoming calls.

Apple also announced a new programming language called Swift. Engineers are thrilled, tweets from the event indicate, although it’s not immediately clear why.