Apple CEO Tim Cook (right) is expected to announce big changes to the way the company delivers music at WWDC 2019. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/News Corp Australia Network
Apple CEO Tim Cook (right) is expected to announce big changes to the way the company delivers music at WWDC 2019. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/News Corp Australia Network

Apple kills off key tech piece

IN the worst-kept secret of Apple's annual event, the company has confirmed the death of iTunes.

Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, announced its end with sarcasm, first joking that Apple could add more features to the do-it-all software, including a calendar, mail program, a web browser, and its own dock.

His team, he joked, had the better idea to split Apple's media into three separate apps.

"The future of Apple Music is not one app but three: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV," he said.

Mr Federighi said iPhone users could still synch their iPhones with their computers, with backups appearing in a Mac Finder window.

The company did not address what would happen with legacy music libraries, however, which is a major concern for existing iTunes stalwarts.

At its annual Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in California overnight, Apple unveiled new software for its devices, including iPhones and iPads, Mac computers, and Apple Watches.

Rumours of iTunes' imminent demise surfaced earlier this week after Apple wiped all posts from the software's Instagram and Facebook accounts, instead redirecting users to its Apple TV+ website.

Software developer Steve Troughton-Smith, known for uncovering the name of the iPhone X before its 2017 launch, fuelled the iTunes rumours online, tweeting that he was "fairly confident" Apple would create separate apps for music and podcasts, alongside Apple's new TV app.

"And yes," he added, "this means the much-discussed and long-awaited break up of iTunes. Finally!"

But the end of iTunes software will not only signify the end of an era - it is also making some music fans nervous.

The software was launched in 2001, alongside the iPod, and has since become a major media library for Apple and Microsoft computer users alike.

By switching to a new app dedicated to Music, iTunes users may no longer be able to access their old library of songs purchased from sources other than Apple, including tunes ripped from their own CDs and procured from other stores.

 

APPLE WATCH

Apple chief executive Tim Cook called the company's smartwatch "the number one watch in the world," and "an intelligent guardian for your health".

And then Apple executives then proceeded to announce new feature after new feature for the timepiece.

The sixth generation of software for the Apple Watch will get new independent apps including a calculator (so it can be used as an old-school calculator watch) and an app to stream audiobooks directly.

The Watch will also get independent access to Apple's App Store so users can "search the full App Store by dictation, scribble or asking Siri," according to spokesman Kevin Lynch, and install them on their wrist without using a phone.

Women will also get an app to track their menstrual cycle on the Watch, while everyone will be able to use a new noise-monitoring app that warns when ambient noise reaches over 90 decibels.

Apple warned the company would not record audio around you, though, and would only listen in "periodically".

In fitness tracking, the Apple Watch will also show trends for the first time, comparing fitness for the last 90 days with the wearer's performance for the rest of the year.

 

APPLE IPHONE SOFTWARE

One of the biggest cheers from the hyper enthusiastic WWDC crowd came when Apple embraced its dark side, delivering the much-promised Dark Mode to iPhone software with a black background to everything from apps to its keyboard.

But the new version of iOS coming to smartphones soon will also feature a much stronger focus on privacy and keeping creepy third-party apps in the dark.

Apple software engineering senior vice-president Craig Federighi told the crowd sharing your location with apps could provide a more personalised experience but "we don't expect to have that privilege used to track us".

As such, Apple will introduce an "Allow Only Once" option for apps that want to track your location, prompting companies to ask to access your location each time it wants to do so.

Apple also promises to deliver reports on how often apps use their location.

But perhaps an even bigger privacy addition is "Sign in with Apple," which will be delivered as a login option an option alongside signing in with Facebook and Twitter.

Rather than allowing app developers to see everything attached to their social media accounts, the Apple signin will hand over little information to the third party company, and can even be used to create a randomly generated email address that will forward messages to a real address.

These addresses can easily be deleted when users no longer want to stay in contact.

Apple also unveiled a new Photos tab for its camera roll that shows what the company deems to be your photographic highlights, removing the clutter of receipt photos and screenshots.

IPAD GETS ITS OWN SOFTWARE

For the first time, the Apple iPad will get software designed just for it. No more phone software stretched on a big 12.9-inch screen.

Named iPad OS, the new operating system is designed to make the tablet more of a work tool.

The new software includes many more shortcuts, such as swiping right to reveal a new tab filled with widgets.

iPad OS will also feature a lot of new multi-tasking options, including a rotating menu of apps that can appear in miniature at the side of the screen.

Apple tablet users will also be able to plug a USB stick into the machine for the first time, ending a major bugbear for travellers.

Extra features will also include a new three-finger swipe gesture to undo a selection (so you no longer need to shake the device), automatic desktop rather than mobile view for websites, and a new implementation of Mark Up that will let anyone with an Apple Pencil write on top of the text in any screen.

SOUND CHOICES

Apple's Siri should sound a little more human after the next software update, with Apple paying more attention to the way she talks to you.

The company will use a technology called neural text-to-speech to make the digital assistant sound a little less like a feature from a science fiction film.

AirPods also got a small update, with a new feature called "Announce Messages" letting Siri read incoming messages in the wireless earbuds and let users quickly dictate a reply without touching a phone.

Apple's smart speaker, HomePod, will also get the ability to recognise different voices.

MAC PRO

Apple often launches computer hardware at its Worldwide Developers Conference and this year it opted for maximum power.

The newly unveiled Mac Pro harks back to the original "cheese grater" style of computer tower, ditching the old "trash can" design.

The new computer features 1.5 terabytes of system memory, a new Intel Xeon processor with as many as 28 cores, eight PCI slots for adding hardware, and heavy duty cooling involving three fans to keep the system running.

The Mac Pro is designed for the biggest and most demanding of tasks, promising to handle up to 12 streams of 4K video at once, and 8K ProRes RAW footage editing in real-time.

The Mac Book Pro will also come with a 6K display calibrated specifically for the computer.

Mr Cook called it "a product that will take the Mac further than it ever has before".

Potential buyers should expect a price to match.