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What did WWDC tell us about the future of Apple?

The popular Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) began this year on June 8. This annual event enables Apple to inform developers about new products as well as upgrades to existing software and hardware. Just a few days ago, Apple released information about changes to dozens of its products, which is of interest to ordinary consumers and industry observers alike.

Apple Maps has been notorious for its unreliability in the past, with CEO Tim Cook even apologizing for it and urging users to instead use third-party software. Apple has now added transit information to Maps for about a dozen Western cities and hundreds of Chinese cities. In addition, there are vehicles equipped with cameras now roaming the streets on behalf of Apple, gathering data for inclusion in later versions of Maps. This indicates that Apple is gearing up for war with competitor Google Maps and trying to emulate its Street View functionality. Now that Apple is pouring significant resources into its map offering, it may be able to chip away at Google’s market share.

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Maps isn’t the only area where Apple is trying to butt heads with Google. Through upgrades to its Spotlight search feature, Apple will allow users to find content without opening their web browsers. Some of these new searches will match the user’s query with content contained inside installed apps, meaning that the Internet won’t even be involved in these results.

iOS 9 will ship with Proactive, an update to Siri. It will provide helpful reminders for upcoming events and make predictions about what apps you want to open next. This is pretty similar to what Google Now is capable of, but the search leader collates vast amounts of data across several platforms to achieve this. Apple management has stressed that Proactive will only use data local to the device upon which it is running so that users’ privacy is respected. While this sounds good on the surface, Apple may be trying to turn a necessity into a virtue as it simply doesn’t have access to the enormous databases of customer information that Google uses.

The HomeKit infrastructure will now feature expanded compatibility with sophisticated home automation equipment. Until now, HomeKit was limited to interacting with relatively simple devices like your home security system or thermostat. The recently announced decision to open source the Swift 2.0 development language along with the enhanced capabilities of HomeKit mean that we could see home automation transform from a playground for tech enthusiasts into an everyday part of normal life.

New iterations of the iPad will ship with iOS 9 and will be able have more than one window open at a time. This may convince many, who view tablets as mere toys, that serious work can be performed on them. Meanwhile, Macbooks and desktop systems will get to take advantage of OS X 10.11 “El Capitan,” which includes natural language Spotlight searches and the Metal 3D API for improved graphics performance.

Apple has a new News app that aims to present a customized selection of news articles pulled from leading publishers. You’ll be able to select topics and receive news that’s relevant to those fields, displayed attractively and adjusted for the dimensions of the device you’re using. Apple Music is another new product: a streaming music service. In addition to the normal features found in similar services, Apple Music will feature a live radio station operating 24/7, a social network connecting fans and artists, and playlists managed by actual human beings rather than automated algorithms. This may help it compete successfully against Spotify, Pandora, Google Play and others in the market.

Some have viewed the death of Steve Jobs as a blow to Apple’s innovation and creativity. It seems, however, that Apple already has a wealth of products on the market and would gain more by perfecting its existing lineup rather than questing quixotically after the next big thing. It will be interesting to see how the rivalry between Apple and Google shapes up in the near future. However it turns out, we’re likely to see many more user-friendly and accessible systems from Apple before it runs out of steam, which may not happen for decades to come.

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