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Apple expands into health, home with new software
June 03, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michael Liedtke The Associated

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is expanding into home and health management as the company tries to turn its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers into an interchangeable network of devices that serve as a hub of people’s increasingly digital lives.

The new tools for tracking health and controlling household appliances are part of updated operating systems that Apple unveiled Monday in San Francisco at its 25th annual conference for application developers.

The revised software for Apple Inc.’s devices won’t be released to the general public until this fall when the company is also expected to start selling the next generation of iPhones and iPads. A spruced-up line of Macs also could be coming before the holiday shopping season.

The lack of a flashy new gadget may disappoint some Apple fans who are still looking for proof that the company hasn’t lost its ingenuity since Steve Jobs died in October 2011. Since then, Apple has mostly been making incremental improvements to the devices and software hatched under Jobs’ leadership.

While those updates have been enough to maintain Apple’s status as the world’s most valuable company, they haven’t quieted persisting questions about the company’s future prospects amid intensifying competition from other device makers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Job’s hand-picked successor, turned Monday’s spotlight over to one of his chief lieutenants — Craig Federighi — to discuss the company’s upcoming software changes. The new versions, which will be free, are called iOS 8 for mobile devices and “Yosemite” for Macs.

The iOS 8 operating system includes “HealthKit” and “HomeKit” options that may test how just how much Apple customers trust the Cupertino, California company to maintain their privacy.

HealthKit works with a new built-in app on the iOS 8 that will store a variety of information about people’s vital signs, fitness levels and diet. Other third-party apps will be able to access the data with a user’s permission.

HomeKit is aiming to set up a system that lets an iPhone or iPad serve as the remote control of an entire household equipped with an assortment of digital appliances with wireless connections.

For now, Apple hasn’t given any indication that it plans to make these “smart” household appliances, although there is recurring speculation that the company eventually will release a TV set that gives its services access to the biggest screen in most people’s homes.

For now, Apple appears content serving as a sort of digital butler in homes. In a hypothetical example sketched out Monday, Federighi said a homeowner with an iOS 8 device might be able to announce “it’s time to go to bed,” at which point doors would automatically lock, lights would dim and the thermostat temperature would be adjusted by Apple’s digital assistant, Siri.

The move into health and home coincides with Apple’s bid to make its services more accessible in cars. That system, called CarPlay, will be available later this year.

Some analysts suspect Apple might get into finances later this year with a digital payment service.

Another new feature included in iOS 8 is designed to make it easier to type on the smaller screens of mobile devices. Called “QuickType,” the tool will learn a user’s language patterns and suggest ways to finish sentences. For example, if you start typing, “Do you want to go to,” the phone will suggest “dinner” or “movie” as the next word. Currently, the suggestions are limited to spelling corrections.

Apple’s messaging app also is adding an option that will let users record and send audio to recipients instead of typing out a note. Although HomeKit and HealthKit are tailored for iPhones and iPads, they eventually may work on Macs too.

That’s because Apple is reprogramming its operating systems so it’s easier for users to hopscotch from an iPhone to an iPad to a Mac and keep working on a document or Web page opened on another Apple device. Some of this interplay is accomplished through Apple’s online storage service, iCloud, and a new “handoff” tool that ties the devices together. An iPhone located near a Mac will even automatically set up a wireless connection for the computer when it doesn’t have one.

Apple also is trying to improve the quality of graphics on it mobile devices with a new iOS 8 feature called “Metal” that creates a more efficient way for game makers to tap into the 3-D capabilities of the processor on iPhones and iPads. The company also is introducing a new programming language called “Swift” in an attempt to help developers create applications more quickly.

The new programming language drew the loudest applause from the roughly 6,000 attending Monday’s event, reflecting the geeky nature of the crowd.

Wall Street was less enthused.

Apple’s stock dipped $4.35 to close Monday at $628.65. The shares are still up 12 percent so far this year. The stock is still bouncing back from a downturn that saw it plunge below $400 last year after peaking at $705.07 in September 2012.

New iPhone, Mac features unveiled

CHANGES TO MAC COMPUTERS:

• The next Mac system will be named Yosemite, after the national park, now that Apple is naming it after California locales rather than cats.

• You’ll be able to search for content on the computer and on the Internet at once, similar to a feature available with Microsoft’s Windows 8.

• Apple is expanding its iCloud storage service so that you can store and sync files of any type, not just the ones designed specifically for iCloud. It’s similar to how services such as Dropbox let you work with the same files on multiple devices more easily.

• A Mail Drop feature will make it easier to send large files. Instead of pushing the entire file by email and overloading mail servers, the Mac will create a link that the recipient can click for the full file.

• The Mac’s Safari Web browser will have more privacy controls and ways to share links more easily.

• The free Mac update will be out this fall. A version is available for developers Monday. This summer, Apple will also make a test version available to selected customers who aren’t developers.

CHANGES TO IPHONES AND IPADS:

• Like the new Mac OS, the iOS 8 system will have a universal search tool, to cover both your device and the Internet. It will also get the iCloud Drive service.

• The new software will sport interactive notifications, so you can respond to a message without having to leave another app. It will have new gestures, such as double tapping to see a list of frequent contacts.

• A “quick type” feature promises predictive typing suggestions. For example, if you start typing, “Do you want to go to,” the phone will suggest “dinner” or “movie” as the next word. Currently, the suggestions are limited to spelling corrections.

• IOS 8 will have a built-in health-management tool to help people track their vital signs, diet and sleeping habits. Apple’s chief rival, Samsung Electronics Co., incorporated fitness-related features in its latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5.

• Apple announced new technology for controlling garage doors, thermostats and other home systems, although the company didn’t say how all the pieces will be linked together through what it calls HomeKit.

• The new software will likely come with new devices for the holiday season, with free updates available for recent models.

• For developers, Apple announced the ability to sell app bundles at discounted prices. The fingerprint security system on the iPhone 5s also will be accessible to apps written by outside parties, not just Apple functions such as unlocking the phone.

WORKING TOGETHER:

• Although the Mac and iOS systems are separate, Apple CEO Time Cook says the two have been engineered to work seamlessly together.

• Apple’s AirDrop feature, which has let you share files with other devices of the same type, will now let iPhones and Macs share directly with each other.

• A new “handoff” feature will let you switch devices more easily, so you can start writing an email on a phone and finish on a Mac. And when a call comes in on your iPhone, you can get caller ID information on your Mac.

• The iMessage chat service will now let you communicate with devices that aren’t running iOS, such as those running the rival Android system from Google.

ANNOUNCED EARLIER:

• Last week, Apple announced a deal to pay $3 billion for Beats Electronics, a headphone and music streaming specialist. The deal brings rapper Dr. Dre and recording impresario Jimmy Iovine to undetermined roles at Apple. During a demo Monday, Federighi placed a call to Dr. Dre to welcome him to Apple.

COMING FOR THE HOLIDAYS:

• Apple typically holds a separate event in September to announce new iPhones. Updates to the iPad are also likely, possibly at yet another event. Many analysts also believe the company will release an Internet-connected watch later this year as part of Apple’s expansion into wearable technology.

 

 

Tags: apple, devices, company, apple, system, iphones,


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