Apple holds World Wide Developers’ Conference 2015

Apple keynotes tend to come in two categories. One is the knock-your-socks-off presentation that accompanies an exciting leap in innovation. At Apple, that often means new hardware, like the iPhone 6 or the Apple Watch. The other, I’ll call the better-faster-slicker presentation, where Apple unveils a series — often a long series — of incremental improvements. None will change the world, but collectively they amount to something quite useful, and they may even prompt millions of people to go buy more Apple devices.

Monday’s World Wide Developers’ Conference fell into the second category. There wasn’t much that was revolutionary or even unexpected, but plenty for Apple fans to chew on.

To be sure, there were a couple of big new products.  The first was Apple Music, a long anticipated streaming service from Apple meant to replace the company’s faded iTunes. The app looks good and is designed to let music fans listen to what they like and discover new artists all in one place. It’s selling itself as a platform for artists to connect with fans (hey, budding rock star, upload your video here, not to YouTube or Facebook). Apple Music comes with a 24/7 “global” radio station that Apple says will be the best anywhere. It’s hard to imagine that it will be more than a platform for a handful of Apple-chosen DJs and music curators to connect with a potentially huge audience.

At first glance, it’s difficult to see what, if anything, makes Apple Music better than, say, Spotify, it’s most direct competitor. I did like that it was integrated with Siri, so you could tell your phone things like “play Let It Be,” or “play my favorite alternative album.” (Spotify must be asking Apple, or more likely, Google, for a similar kind of OS-level integration.) I also liked Apple Music’s family plan, which for $15 a month allows a group of up to six people to share the service. The individual plan cost the same $10 a month as Spotify’s. (I suspect the folks at Spotify are busy working on matching the family plan now, if they weren’t already.) One more thing I liked: Apple Music will be free for the first three months, ensuring that millions of people around the world will give it a try.

The second interesting new product was News, a slick app to read stories from the likes of The New York Times, Vanity Fair and scores of other publishers on their mobile devices. It is clearly inspired by Flipboard and borrows from the slick user experience of Facebook’s recently-launched Instant Articles. I’m sure people will like it, but it certainly doesn’t count as a major breakthrough.


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