Apple on Monday served up a veritable smorgasbord of digital delights for its fans, unveiling at its annual developers conference upgrades to its mobile and desktop software, showing off a gussied-up Siri with a new bag of tricks, and firing a shot over Spotify?s bow with its new streaming Apple Music subscription service.
?This is a truly revolutionary music service,? Eddy Cue, Apple?s senior vice president of Internet software and services, told the crowd of several thousand developers, designers and product managers at the 26th Worldwide Developers Conference, the annual Apple love fest in San Francisco. ?Apple Music will bring you all of your music all in one place.?
Revealed toward the end of a nearly three-hour extravaganza, the music feature was clearly Apple?s rabbit out of a hat. It had been widely expected for months, ever since May last year when Apple bought subscription streaming music service Beats Music, and Beats Electronics, which makes the popular Beats headphones, speakers and audio software.
To kick off the music segment, Apple CEO Tim Cook even brought to the stage Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine. The scrappy music-industry veteran told the crowd that when he first met with Cue and Apple founder Steve Jobs years ago and heard about their new iTunes service, he was blown away. ?They showed me something brilliant: a simple, elegant way to buy music online,? Iovine said. ?And I was like, ?Wow, the ad is true ? these guys really do think different.??
Since then, the world of online music has degenerated into what Iovine called ?a fragmented mess,? precisely the sort of problem, he suggested, that?s been looking for a solution like Apple Music. ?Apple can help move culture the way art moves culture,? Iovine said before turning the stage back over to Cue.
Pitching the service as a complete ecosystem where a user of any Apple product can access not only music they love but new music recommended to them by Apple?s curators and even by the artists themselves, Apple says the new feature will be offered free for the first three months. And, said Cue and others, it will bring musicians closer to their fans and essentially shift the online music experience from the iTunes model of buying one 99-cent song at a time to having access to millions of songs at anytime and for one recurring fee.
?This will give artists direct access to listeners who, in turn, will help those artists get discovered and get even better at what they do,? said analyst Tim Bajarin with Creative Strategies, who was at Cook?s keynote address that kicked off the five-day event. ?This represents a significant new chapter for Apple and for online music.?
Bajarin said Apple Music will ?force Spotify and Pandora and other streaming-music services to become even more innovative and, therefore, more competitive. So this service really raises the bar for everyone.?
The first two hours of the presentation, much of it emceed by Craig Federighi, Apple?s point person for both the OS and iOS teams, consisted of the latest iteration of that software, with a laundry lists of gee-whiz improvements to Siri, Apple Maps, Apple Pay and more. The new features, many of them dazzling, some of them less so, came fast and furious.
Mac Users, Federighi said, can now ask Siri to ?bring up documents I worked on last June.? They can drag photos into emails and notes. And to the great delight of the cheering developers in the audience, the new software allows people to work in split-screen mode. Apps will launch twice as fast as they do with the current OS version called Yosemite, which will be replaced by a version called OX X El Capitan. Upgrades to Apple?s graphics-design tool called Metal will mean improved gaming performance and better battery life.