Saturday, June 20, 2015

Family Tech: Apple unveils new features, including musical ones

Apple recently held its developer’s conference, and like Google, showed a few fun things coming for its users including a new way to listen to music.

Coming this fall, IOS 9 brings new capabilities to iPhones and iPads.

IOS 9 offers the ability to remind you of events and understand your needs depending on your location and other clues. Reminiscent of Google Now, IOS 9 will remind you of an upcoming event if it has seen it mentioned in an email to you. It wants Siri to become your proactive personal assistant.

It can also show you news relevant to where you are, and if you plug in your headphones at the gym, it will start playing music for you, if that is what you commonly do at the gym.

Apple stressed this parsing of your personal data happens on your phone, while Google’s processing happens on Google servers, necessitating your data being shared with Google’s algorithms.

Apple Spotlight allows Siri to search within apps on your phone.

The Apple mapping program now shows transit information for many cities, including Washington.

Apple beefed up its Notes app. I haven’t used Notes but it sounds like Evernote or Google Keep. It lets you save information from websites, from your notes or by taking a photograph. This information is available to you on your iPhone, iPad and Mac PCs.

Apple News is an app that lets you pull up news of the world, country, and locale pertinent to you. Using a Flipboard like user interface, it lets you choose the kind of news in which you are interested, and shows it to you in a clean, magazine-like format.

As it goes along, it learns what you like and finds new material for you.

Publishers will be able to keep 100 percent of the revenue from ads they sell and 70 percent of the revenue from Apple sold ads. Publishers are motivated to share their content where there is an audience, without loss of revenue.

iPad users of IOS 9 can now have two apps open on the screen at one time, which will make researching and writing easier.

Apple Watch now has its own API, meaning apps written for it can run entirely on the watch and not need an iPhone close by. This should make Watch apps faster and more useful.

In its final announcement, Apple’s revealed its “One more thing” was Apple Music. This is a streaming-music service that lets you stream any song in the iTunes music catalog, even if you have not purchased it.

It will cost $10 a month. There will be a three-month free trial and there will even be an Android app for Apple Music – Apple’s first Android app. Also, good for families is a $15 a month family plan allowing up to six users. Each user is truly unique, so the music the 15 year old in the family listens to will not impact the recommendations Apple Music makes to the 45 year old in the house.

There will be tools to allow artists to interact with fans, building a community and solidifying their fan base. And there will be a 24-hour streaming radio station with carefully curated music to help listeners discover new music, one of the biggest challenges in music marketing today.

Apple Music is aimed squarely at Spotify, a streaming service also with a large music library. Spotify has premium and family plans competitive with Apple’s and a free ad supported level as well.

Apple Music is coming June 30 to Apple devices, and later in the year for Android.

Apple announced a new version of the operating system for Macs, OS X El Capitan. It will be a free upgrade coming this fall. It includes a new graphic engine game which developers will likely put to good use.

“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas,” Apple’s Steve Jobs has said. Some of what we saw announced did seem inspired by other tools. The Safari web browser in El Capitan, for example, will now indicate which of its tabs is making noise, a capability other browsers have had for some time.

Siri’s proactive personal assistant capabilities were definitely inspired by Google Now. Apple had to find a way to give users the ability, while being careful with user’s privacy.

The transit data shown now in Apple Maps has been in other navigation tools for a while.

This is how this industry works. Xerox’s Alto and its windowing systems begat the Apple Lisa, then the Macintosh, and Microsoft’s Windows. Certainly much that is in Android phones was inspired by iPhones.

It’s tough on manufacturers, but ultimately benefits us consumers.

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