Monday, 13 June 2016

Apple WWDC: what we expect and how to watch it

LOS ANGELES — Monday, Apple gives a sneak peak at changes to its mobile IOS operating system and features for the Apple Watch and Apple TV.

The event is WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which attracts over 5,000 folks who make apps and software for Apple devices to hear the latest about where Apple is headed.

USA TODAY will be covering WWDC, with reporters Edward C. Baig, Marco della Cava, Jon Swartz and myself, so be sure to stick with us for the latest.

Unlike other Apple events, which are aimed to sell new products that will be out in weeks, WWDC is a look-ahead at Apple’s road map for what’s coming in the fall, when Apple traditionally releases new products, like the iPhone and iPad.

It’s a software-focused show, so Apple isn’t expected to introduce new computers, although it could throw a curveball and do just that.

The bulk of most WWDC launches are on new features for IOS, which in turn means new things you’ll see on the iPhone 7, which is expected in September, and recent existing iPhones and iPads as well.

Apple didn't reply to our request for comment.

This year, the biggest news is expected to be opening up Siri, the iPhone personal digital assistant, to third-party apps like Uber and Airbnb, so users could potentially use voice commands to book a car or hotel room.

Currently, Siri is only available to operate the iPhone and to work within Apple apps like Music and Photos. At WWDC, Apple is also expected to open Siri to use on Macintosh computers.

This is a big deal for developers since, for the first time, Apple is locked in a heated battle for voice-activation with Amazon and Google. Amazon’s Echo-connected speaker, which answers to the name “Alexa,” is a surprise hit, and Amazon has opened the Alexa experience to outside developers like Uber, Domino’s Pizza and Fitbit. And Google has a similar voice-activated product, Google Home, coming later in the year, that it says will be open to outside developers to respond to “OK Google.”

Elsewhere at WWDC:

--Apple Music and iTunes are expected to get a design overhaul to make them easier to use. “They need to clean them up,” says Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research.

--OS X: Apple’s operating system for Mac computers always gets a big upgrade at WWDC, along with a new name. Several Apple enthusiast blogs report that Apple will change the OSX name to Mac OS, bringing it in line with iOS, tvOS and watchOS.

Additionally, each year, Apple announces a new name for the system upgrade, which last year was El Capitan, and was primarily focused on behind the scenes tools to make the system more secure.

Last year’s WWDC was mostly focused on introducing the new Apple Music subscription service, which was poised to take on Spotify with unlimited music for $9.99 monthly. Apple Music has 13 million subscribers to 30 million for the more entrenched Spotify.

New features for IOS9 are expected to include a smaller download, changes that make it less likely to crash older iPhones, adding photos to the Notes app, and the introduction of the News app, which looked to bring headlines to iPhone users and help Apple share in the ad revenue. The app didn’t become widely used.

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