Tim Cook began his talk about Apple’s mobile operating system by saying the company didn’t just want to sell the most devices but make gadgets people “actually use and love the most.” He then unveiled a totally new version of the firm’s mobile OS, dubbed iOS 7, which got a standing ovation from the crowd. (One audience member shouted out “We love you!” as Cook took the stage after a video presenting the concepts behind the new OS.)
The design eschews the so-called skeuomorphic design — in which software looks like the real-world objects it represents — that was favored by Steve Jobs and the ousted Scott Forstall. Instead, the system presents a much more flat and colorful design. In fact, the system is all new from the bottom up, looking very little like predecessors. From the fonts to the app icons, the entire OS looks much cleaner and simpler. Apple (AAPL) showed off a new Safari web browser and weather app, among others. Siri is getting two new voices — one male and one female — along with more features for use in a car. Perhaps one of the most impressive new elements is the way the design attempts to create depth. For example, if a user tilts their device slightly, the background wallpaper stays fixed while the app icons shift slightly, creating a 3D effect. iOS 7 will be available this fall.
Apple unveiled iTunes Radio, a streaming music service similar to Spotify and Google (GOOG) Play. The company’s Eddie Cue demonstrated how users could create playlists based off personal preferences, as well as how to select previously curated lists. The service works on Apple Macs and Windows PCs, as well as iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Much like Pandora (P), iTunes Radio will be free with ads. iTunes Match subscribers get the service free of ads.
It had been a while since users of Apple’s top-of-the-line desktops had something truly new to cheer. A very long while: the current “cheese grater” design dates back to before Apple made the switch to Intel-based CPUs in 2006. So it was a treat to meet an all-new design for the desktop line. “This product is so cool,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller, “I’m going to go over the top.” Then the lights dimmed and a dramatic video introduced the radical new design.
Taking up one-eighth the volume of current Mac Pros, the new machines are black and cylindrical. They look like a cross between a trash can and a bear canister — but much sleeker. “Can’t innovate anymore my ass,” Schiller said to raucous applause before unspooling an impressive list of technical specifications. He didn’t reveal a price, but said the machines would be made in the USA and become available later this year.
Mac OS X Mavericks
Apple joked that it was starting to run out of big cats to name its desktop OS’s after. Making a pun on the latest, Mountain Lion, executives joked that the name “Sea Lion” just didn’t seem quite right somehow. Instead, the next decade of OS’s will be named after spots in California, where Apple is headquartered. First up? OS X Mavericks, named after surfing spot off the coast known for its massive waves.
The next version of the system — due out this fall — is focused on improving “power and performance.” Demos showed off speedy and smooth scrolling as well as a dramatically faster version of the Safari web browser. Other improvements include tabbed finder windows, file tagging, and a much better implementation of multiple displays for power users. The company is including a desktop version of its Maps application that can beam directions directly to a user’s iPhone. Apple will also be releasing a version of the iBooks bookstore on its desktops and laptops.
Promising all-day battery life, Apple showed off new ultra-thin and light MacBook Airs. The new laptops are based on Intel’s so-called Haswell CPUs, which draw much less power. The new 11-inch model, for example, is going from five hours of battery life to nine; the larger 13-inch model is going from seven hours currently to 12. Prices start at $999, and the devices will be available immediately.
File this one under “kinda random.” Apple showed off its version of Google Docs, called iWork for iCloud. This software allows users to create spreadsheets, presentations, and documents in a web browser that can seamlessly be synced with iPads and iPhones running the same applications. Apple’s presentation showed its PowerPoint-like Keynote software running in Safari and Google Chrome, including on a Windows machine. A public beta is scheduled for later this year. Apple’s browser-based software has been spotty in the past — but if these apps work the way they did in the demo, it could be a significant step forward.