Apple’s domination of the iPhone market has virtually guaranteed that the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference will be the big news story in the apps field every year. It is the event where Apple unveils the products that will most affect the apps market for that year. Here is a look at the apps which project to be the most important, with the farthest-reaching effects in the industry.
The biggest undertaking revealed at this conference was that Apple is creating a 3-D map of the world, and is set to compete with Google in the online map field. Apple announced that they have had a fleet of helicopters and airplanes flying around the world, especially over major cities, to build a 3-D model of populated areas. Apple also plans to use the locator functions in their iPhones to compile live, realtime traffic data. The maps app will also include a satellite navigation feature.
Google, which at one time partnered with Apple to a point of sharing board members, and who have provided mapping information for iOS since 2007, announced a similar model last week, but Apple’s announcement constitutes an obvious creation of competition with Google. Apple also officially announced the projected iOS 6 software. The new software will be available on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.
In addition to including the new mapping system, iOS 6 will integrate Facebook on a heretofore unprecedented level. Users will be able to update their status by voice with an included voice-command app, called “Siri.” Siri will be available in many languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Spanish. Siri will also be used to “like” apps and movies at the iTunes store, and will be able to launch movies and apps by voice command.
Another feature announced for iOS 6 is called “Eyes Free.” Apple is working with most of the major auto manufacturers to install a dedicated “Siri” button in their new cars. This will allow iOS device users to access their iPhone and Siri without taking their eyes off the road.
Another feature is called “Passbook.” Passbook will allow the user to purchase tickets to events, movies, and even airlines and trains, in one digital application. The app will use QRCodes and 2-D barcodes. Apps will be purchased through Fandango, sent to your iPhone, and will allow access to events by flashing your iPhone to a device at the ticket counter.
Apple also announced that their popular video calling app, FaceTime, will now be available over a standard cellular connection. Previously, it was only available over wi-fi. The user will also be able to answer the call on the iPhone or Mac.
Apple also displayed its new desktop operating system, OS X Mountain Lion. OS X Mountain Lion will make the Mac computer a lot more like an iPhone, and allow for more synchronization between Apple devices. Some similar features are a Messages app, Notes, Reminders, a Notification Center, and a Game Center.
The system will integrate iCloud, and has a Sharing feature which will allow users to photos, links, and videos to third-party social networks such as Vimeo, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook. Another similarity to the iOS 6 is that Facebook is going to be much more deeply integrated into the system than before.
Other improvements include a lot of tweaks to Safari, including iCloud tabs and Smart Search Field, a feature called Gatekeeper, which is designed to help make downloaded apps safer, and voice dictation. OS X Mountain Lion will be available sometime in July at the Mac App Store. The price will be $20. Developers were reportedly given access to a nearly-completed version Monday of this week.
Other announcements of importance were the unveiling of the new MacBooks. Both the Air and Pro lines got some major updates. Both lines were given Intel “Ivy Bridge” core processors. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and all of the MacBook Airs will get either a Core i5 or i7 processor. The 15-inch version of the MacBook Pro will get the Core i7 quad-core processor. All of the MacBooks will get a 720p FaceTime HD camera, two USB 3.0 ports, and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 processor.
The most important revelation here is the trend by Apple toward blurring the lines between computers and smartphones. The 15-inch MacBook Pro will weigh 4.46 pounds, and will measure out at 0.71 inches thick. It will also have a 2880×1800 pixel Retina display. One cannot predict where Apple is going with their computers, tablets, smartphones, and apps, but their current movement appears to be headed toward integration and amalgamation of their products into one common operating system.