The software running Apple's iPhones and iPads is getting a new look and several new features. The Mac is borrowing more functionality from mobile devices. New MacBook Airs are out, and a new Internet radio service will be coming this fall.
Apple announced these offerings and more this week in San Francisco. Here are the highlights:
Apple has traditionally named its Mac operating systems after big cats, such as 2012's Mountain Lion. It's running out of animals, so it will now pay homage to the geography of its home state. This fall, it will release Mavericks, named after an undersea rock formation that produces big waves near Half Moon Bay, Calif., not far from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino.
The new operating system will support tagging to help you find files more easily. Simply assign one or more tags such as "important" or "movies" to a particular document as you save it.
Mavericks will also work better with multiple monitors, with docks and menus going across the various display screens. A TV connected via Apple's AirPlay can serve as one of those displays.
The new system also promises better battery life.
An updated Safari Web browser will make it easier to bookmark favorite sites with just one click. Safari will also have a new scrolling feature. When you get to the end of an article on your list of links to read, it will automatically pull up the next item as you continue to scroll downward. There's no need to stop what you're doing to click on another link.
Through the iCloud online syncing service, you will be able to keep track of all your passwords - encrypted for security - across your various devices. And when you're shopping, it will automatically suggest credit card numbers you've used in the past. You will still have to enter the security code on the back of your card, however.
Apple is bringing its mapping service to desktop and laptop computers, challenging Google Maps and others. The company introduced it on the iPhone last year. The Mac is also getting the iBooks app previously available on iPhones and iPads.
It's the latest evidence that Apple's software for mobile devices and traditional computers is converging. Still, Apple has said it prefers to keep the two separate because the Mac software is designed for nontouchscreen devices such as desktops and laptops.
NEW MOBILE SOFTWARE
Apple announced iOS 7, the next version of its operating system for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.
The biggest change comes in the new system's design: Instead of app icons that try to mimic real-world counterparts, Apple is favoring simplicity and consistency from app to app. The company's design chief, Jony Ive, said the new structure is meant to bring order to complexity. The redesign includes subtle motion. It shows thunder on a weather app when a thunderstorm is forecast, for instance.
The new software will expand a device's ability to run multiple apps at once. It'll be easier for users to switch from app to app by swiping across the display screen. Apple's software will figure out which apps you tend to use and make sure content for those apps is updated regularly.
With iOS 7, you'll be able to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access a control center, for such functions as turning on airplane mode and adjusting brightness. It's similar to a feature available on rival devices running Android.
The calendar has been cleaned up and looks more streamlined. You can also get to your contacts list quickly while reading messages by swiping from the left of the screen. A featured called AirDrop will let people share content with other Apple devices.
There's also better organization of photos you take on iPhones. Instead of the endless streams of the past, pictures will be organized into moments - such as "home" or "trip to San Francisco."
The Siri virtual assistant is getting refreshed, too. Siri's voice will sound less robotic than before, and you'll be able to choose a male voice, not just a female one as is currently the case. You can ask Siri what people are saying on Twitter, or ask for information from Microsoft's Bing search engine. You can also command Siri to adjust the phone's brightness or play the last voice mail. Siri will be available in French and German, too, with more languages to come.
To deter theft, iPhones with a new Activation Lock turned on will need your Apple ID and password before it can be reset and reactivated.
Apple said iOS 7 will be available on the iPhone 4 and later, the iPad 2 and later and the iPad Mini. A test version was made available to developers starting Monday. It will be available for everyone else this fall. That's also when Apple is likely to introduce a new iPhone. A version of the new iOS will also be built into cars.
Apple announced battery-life improvements to its line of MacBook Airs, which are thinner and lighter than traditional laptops. The 11-inch model will have nine hours of battery life instead of five, while the 13-inch model will have 12 hours, instead of seven. The new MacBook Airs went on sale Monday: The 11-inch one starting at $999 and the 13-inch model starting at $1,099.
Apple also showed off an upcoming update to its Mac Pro desktop line that will be made in the United States.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller called the new Mac Pro "a machine unlike anything we've ever made, both inside and out," and said it would be completely designed and manufactured in the U.S.
At one-eighth of the volume of the previous Mac Pro, the new offering will double the performance with help from a new Intel Xeon chip.
Apple unveiled a streaming music service, iTunes Radio. The service will personalize listeners' music based on what they've listened to and what they've purchased on iTunes. If you like a song, you can buy it through iTunes with one click.
The service will be built into iOS 7 and work on Apple's mobile devices. It will also work with Apple's iTunes software on Mac and Windows computers. Apple said it will be free with ads, though subscribers of Apple's $25-a-year iTunes Match service will get it ad-free. It will be available this fall in the U.S.
Apple also announced a long-overdue upgrade to its iWork suite of productivity software. The new version will tap iCloud and let you run the programs from a Web browser, similar to Google Docs. The suite includes Pages for word processing and Numbers for spreadsheets.
The iWork package is cheaper than Microsoft's Office, but has worked only on Apple devices. Because the new version works on a Web browser, you'll be able to use it on a Windows computer, too. The last major upgrade to iWork came in 2009. The new edition is called iWork for iCloud and will be available this fall. Apple didn't provide details on pricing.
Microsoft announced Friday that it is making a pared-down version of its Office software package available on the iPhone. In Sunday's Star, read a review of Office for iPhone.
This article contains information from the San Jose Mercury-News.