With such a plethora of fancy new features from the iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks operating systems that Apple Inc. unleashed upon the world at this week's Worldwide Developers conference in San Francisco, it was inevitable that a lot of intriguing new services would be lost in the shuffle.
Beyond the Big Stuff that made the news, like the new iTunes Radio streaming service and some of the flashier updates to its mobile operating system from creative guru Jony Ive, those two hours of keynote Monday morning were full of innovations sure to delight every Apple fanboy.
Take, for starters, the new iCloud Keychain for OS X. Joking about how tough it is to commit to memory an endless list of passwords, logons, credit-card and Wi-Fi numbers, Apple's software chief, Craig Federighi, said the new security feature was a godsend. The service will store all your passwords in the cloud where they'll be synced across your devices. Plus, Keychain will auto-suggest new strong passwords as well as store your credit-card data, using 256-bit AES encryption; all you need is your single security code to tap into it all.
In addition, the Calendar application has been beefed up, now offering a cleaner design that provides real-time travel information for a marked event as well as the day's weather. So that noon lunch appointment now becomes an enriched mix of helpful navigational tips and meteorological metadata.
"Even with all the upgrades and new features, iOS 7 is still very app-centered," said analyst Avi Greengart, who was at the show for New Jersey-based Current Analysis. "And that makes sense, because hundreds of millions of people already around the world know how to use them."
Federighi talked a lot about Apple's Maps app, a sore subject because the feature was so glitch-ridden out of the gate last year that Cook had to publicly apologize for it. "Our Maps team is making great progress," he told the crowd. "We've now got street maps with flyover data; you can search for nearby points of interest, get turn-by-turn directions, and send your route from your Mac to your iPhone."
The Maps demo that took viewers swooping down on a virtual rendition of Paris offered a tantalizing look at how Street View will soon let you "look behind" objects in the 3-D layout. In this case, it was the Eiffel Tower, and Federighi deftly tilted the Paris streetscape by moving his iPhone, affording viewers a peek right through the tower's skeleton to the apartment buildings on the other side.
Apple's new operating software for the Macintosh as well as its mobile devices have also jazzed up iBooks, including new note-taking functions and more-interactive textbooks, clearly a reflection of Apple's traditional strength in the educational market. Federighi's demo, for example, showed how a user could zoom into a science-book's page to watch videos that augment the texts, as well as dive deeply into an interactive photograph of a leaf to examine its cellular structure.
Security was a common theme at the keynote. And in addition to Keychain, Apple introduced a new iPhone "activation lock." This feature will shut down a stolen device if a bad guy (without the necessary password) tries to disable Find My iPhone, another program that allows users to track down a misplaced or stolen device.
The feature, which Federighi called "a really powerful theft deterrent," got a huge round of applause, both from the crowd at Moscone West and later from beleaguered law-enforcement officials who are trying to get their hands around a national epidemic of smartphone thefts.
There were plenty more new features where that came from. The Weather app on your iPhone will soon carry virtual images of the weather conditions in the location you're asking about. So you might find a sunny backdrop to Phoenix, falling rain on the phone's screen behind those temperatures in Seattle, and even falling snow if there is, in fact, snow falling in your city of choice.
The iPhone camera will get nice upgrades. The new iOS 7, for example, allows users to swipe among four camera modes - video, panorama shots, standard still shots, and squared-off shots. Another feature lets them easily organize thousands of pictures in their cluttered Camera Roll by place and date, all with a touch of the finger.
One last goody: A new photo-sharing feature lets users tap on the photo of a friend and that person can instantly enjoy your photos along with you. And in a sly dig at the popular app called Bump, which allows users to share photos by knocking one phone against another, Federighi joked:
"No need to bump your phones together anymore walking around the room."
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