SAN FRANCISCO – A conference center was transformed Monday into a developers’ candy store as Apple Inc. unveiled a mind-boggling array of souped-up hardware and software features at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, turning thousands of attendees into wide-eyed kids.
It was the first conference since Apple co-founder and perennial emcee Steve Jobs’ death last year, but CEO Tim Cook used his first keynote speech to dazzle developers who had come from around the globe for the five-day tech fest.
Marketing chief Phil Schiller introduced major upgrades to Apple’s MacBook line of laptops, including a faster, thinner and more powerful MacBook Air. Then he broke the day’s most impressive news, announcing the next-generation MacBook Pro, a super-thin laptop he called “the most beautiful computer we’ve ever made.” The new machine, with the same extra-sharp retina display now available on the iPad, drew loud applause from the crowd.
A presentation of the tweaks, fixes and new features of the Mac’s OS X and mobile iOS 6 operating platforms worked the crowd into a lather for the remaining 90 minutes. The operating-system features came fast and furious: a deeper integration with iCloud so that messages and photos can be easily shared among a user’s Apple devices; a new app called PowerNap that allows Macs to update while asleep; and AirPlay Mirroring, which lets users easily transfer content from a Mac to a television screen through Apple TV.
The goodie bag for iOS was even more impressive: enhanced integration with Siri, who can now give audible turn-by-turn driving directions; more extensive use of dictation; and the “eyes-free” Siri app that Apple says will be installed in the vehicles of several major automakers in the next 12 months.
Apple Senior Vice President Scott Forstall told developers that iOS 6 will provide greater integration with Facebook, just as Apple has done with Twitter, making the social-networking service a nearly seamless part of the iPhone’s display landscape.
“With this integration, we’ll see Apple continue to migrate toward Facebook and away from Google,” analyst Ross Rubin with the NPD Group said. He pointed to Apple’s new homegrown mapping function, which will replace Google Maps as the iOS 6 default, as an indicator of where Apple seems to be heading.