Apple unveiled new software for its
computers, smartphones and tablets Monday as it sought to halt the
encroachment of rivals like Google and Samsung on its premium
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the new operating systems in the opening address of Apple's annual WorldWide Developer Conference in San Francisco.
The company, which has seen its stock fall from a high of more than 700 dollars last September to under 450 dollars currently, badly needs a new hit to reassure investors and customers that it is still capable of maintaining its lead.
But with any major new hardware release of new iPhones and iPads still months away, the focus was on new Macbook Air laptops and new operating systems for both personal computers and mobile devices.
Apple also launched a new version of iTunes that includes an ad-supported streaming music service called iTunes Radio that can build playlists and stations based on single songs and artists - a response to the success of other streaming services such as Pandora.
Cook insisted that despite the advances of rivals, Apple's mobile operating system iOS remained the number one in the market, boasting of 97 per cent satisfaction and more than twice as much web use as Android.
The gap would grow with the introduction of iOS 7, said Cook, who called it "the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone."
As expected, the new software features strikingly different visual cues with a flat, translucent and colourful design replacing a 3D opaque pallet that featured lots of greys and blues.
Like Samsung's new Galaxy S4, which is widely regarded as the iPhone's top competitor, the new software responds to hand motions. Notifications are available on the lock screen and a finger swipe from the bottom edge accesses the device settings. Multitasking and battery life are both improved, said Apple software chief Craig Federighi, while new Activation Lock would prevent thieves from using stolen iPhones.
There was also an upgrade for Apple voice activation feature Siri which gets a smoother tone, options for a male voice and the ability to control more iPhone functions. Its search feature will also access results from Microsoft's Bing search engine, in a renewed Apple attempt to limit the footprint of rival Google on its phones.
"We see iOS 7 as defining an important new direction, and in many ways a new beginning," said Apple design chief Jony Ive, who was recently placed in charge of the software's look and feel.
iOS 7 is available to developers in beta on the iPhone immediately. It will be released to the public in the fall and will work only on iPhone 4 or later, iPad 2 and later, the mini and the iPod touch.
The new laptops, featuring Intel's new Haswell chips, are able work an entire day on a single battery. Apple also gave attendees a peak at its new top of the lines Mac Pro computers, which it said were more than 2.5 times faster that current models
The latest version of OS X, Mavericks - as the new software is called after a famous California surfing spot - boasts improved notifications and integration with other Apple devices, so that for instance a map search on a Macbook will also show up on the owner's smartphone, a feature which has long been available for users of Google's Chrome browser and Android operating system.
Files in Mavericks will also be tagged for easier location while Mavericks also boasts of better support for multiple displays, according to Federighi.
Apple also announced new features for iCloud, the company's remote backup service, which will now feature a new version of iWork to better compete with Google's online productivity suite Google Docs. Users will even be able to access iCloud from Windows PCs and using Internet Explorer and Chrome browsers.
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