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posted: 6/7/2014 6:54 AM

New Apple OS more open for developers

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  • Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks in front of a screen for the Yosemite operating system at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Monday, June 2, 2014.

      Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks in front of a screen for the Yosemite operating system at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Monday, June 2, 2014.
    Associated Press

 
By Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple unveiled a new operating system for its desktop and mobile devices this week, exciting developers with its updates but disappointing many who hoped to see the tech giant launch a new product.

The day's message appeared largely aimed at the technical community, with developers cheering over signs that the company is loosening its notoriously tight grip on the software that powers its devices, giving developers greater freedom to tinker.

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The new system for Macs, known as Yosemite, offers a cleaner look than its predecessors and is designed to mimic many of the features already used in the company's iPhone and iPad devices. The new system includes an updated Safari browser and allows users to start an activity on one device and finish it on another. Its updated online file storage system, iCloud Drive, could be a competitor to services like Dropbox.

The new mobile operating system, iOS 8, will give smartphone users better predictive typing suggestions and make it easier to respond to text messages, Apple said.

The software updates also include a widely expected push into the increasingly popular health care market. Apple users will be able to pull together data from several different apps tracking their health data, from how many steps they have taken to what they have eaten, into a single place.

By offering to manage and secure data from disparate services, said Mike Sax, the founder and chairman of the app trade group Association for Competitive Technology, Apple eliminates the need for smaller companies to manage regulations dealing with health or other sensitive data and bolsters Apple's image as a trusted brand. That, in turn, could help the company sell devices.

"Apple's core business is selling iPhones, iPads and Macs," Sax said. "They use their abilities to simplify and create intuitive products to help Apple customers protect privacy for their kids, themselves and their friends."

The free updates, which were introduced at the company's annual software developer conference, will be available in the fall.

Apple dashed a lot of consumers' hopes by not announcing a new gadget at the conference. The company has been fighting the perception that it has lost its ability to innovate and some industry watchers hoped it would use the conference to unveil a move into the wearables market or introduce another product. Apple's stock was up before the conference began, but closed down about 1 percent at $628 a share.

But the tech giant did give the public a peek at a culture shift in the company -- a more open Apple.

The attendees at the conference -- many among Apple's most dedicated followers -- were buzzing with approval at the company's willingness to grant outside developers more opportunities to access parts of its systems previously off-limits to anyone outside the company. Several of these features were greeted with raucous whoops and prolonged applause.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook didn't do much of the talking Monday, opting instead to let other Apple executives do the bulk of the presentation. But Cook's fingerprints were all over the company's main keynote speech.

Under its late co-founder Steve Jobs, Apple was insular, often drawing criticism from developers who said that its obsession with perfection sometimes came at the cost of being able to learn from and work with others. Jobs once said that he admired archrival Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, for his skill in striking smart partnerships.

"I think if Apple could have had a little more of that in its DNA, it would have served it extremely well," Jobs said in a joint interview with Gates in 2007.

Cook, meanwhile, recently struck a $3 billion deal to acquire Beats, known for its oversized headphones and music streaming service. Many analysts have questioned whether Jobs would have agreed to a deal with a company with such a strong brand.

Still, Cook stressed that Apple is still a company dedicated to perfecting its own products -- perhaps explaining why the company has yet to launch a new product under his watch.

Each part of Apple works closely together, Cook said. "We do this so we can create a seamless experience for our users that is unparalleled in the industry."

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