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Apple WWDC Brings Updates to OS X, watchOS, iOS and More

Tech giant Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicked off Monday at the Moscone West convention center in San Francisco with the headlining keynote address. Among the topics discussed during the address were new capabilities for OS X, updates coming to iOS, native apps for the Apple Watch, a streaming music service, and a new version of the watchOS operating system.

At the event, Apple also introduced Swift 2, the next-generation of its programming language, which was first rolled out at last year’s WWDC. Apple said this new version has even better performance, a new error handling API, and better support for availability checking than its predecessor. Additionally, Apple said the platform APIs feel even more natural in Swift with enhancements to the Apple SDKs.

In addition to new features, the big news, which was well received by the audience — is that Apple will be making Swift open source later this year. “We are all incredibly excited about this, and look forward to giving you a lot more information as the open source release gets nearer,” according to a blog post on Apple’s developer site.

Apple says that the Swift source code will be released under an OSI-approved permissive license. Contributions from the community will be accepted — and encouraged. The company also intends to contribute ports for OS X, iOS, and Linux at launch; and, the source code will include the Swift compiler and standard library.

Viva El Capitan

Apple CEO Tim Cook began the keynote with introductory remarks before turning the stage over to senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, who talked the crowd through the latest enhancements to the OS X desktop and laptop operating system and iOS 9 — which will replace iOS 8 on the iPhone and iPad later this year. He said 55 percent of active Mac users are running the latest update of the Yosemite OS, which he called the fastest adoption rate for any PC operating system ever.

The name for the new OS X is El Capitan, with enhancements in the new version focus on user experience and system performance. Features include a larger cursor, the ability to pin Web sites to the tab bar, and tabs that show if music or video is playing in the background, letting users mute background tabs more easily.

But the big news on OS X is performance, said Federighi. In testing, apps launched almost one-and-a-half times faster than they did previously, apps switch twice as fast, and PDFs in preview launch four times as fast.

He said that the reason for the upgrades is that El Capitan takes the graphics stacks on which apps in OS X are built, such as Core Animation and Graphics, and moves them from OpenGL to its Metal gaming application programming interface (API) that Apple hopes will compete with Microsoft‘s DirectX.

Lots in Store for iOS 9

A number of related announcements at WWDC centered around the next iteration of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9, which comes out in the fall as a free release. Currently, it’s available in beta for developers as well as users who register for it.

Federighi said the operating system’s personal assistant Siri has become 40 percent more accurate over the past year, and that trend should continue with iOS 9. The new system promises to be more proactive, offering music when headphones are plugged in, and taking invitations that users get via e-mail and easily adding them to users’ calendars.

He said that other goals for iOS 9 are improved battery life, better performance, and enhancements that will add intelligence to the user experience without compromising privacy.

iOS 9 also brings more intelligence with Siri and search, while striving to keep your information private. It also takes less space to install than iOS 8. In addition, built-in apps in iOS 9 now take advantage of Metal, delivering faster scrolling, smoother animation, and better overall performance. The new mobile OS also includes enhancements for Notes, offering easy formatting and an easy way to make checklists and checkoff to-do items. Users can also add photos to Notes and add links to images, to keep information easily organized.

The mapping functionality in iOS 9 now includes “Transit” with maps for public transportation (subway, bus, train, ferry). It also includes walking directions and time estimates for how long to get from exits and entrances to where you need to go. This feature will also also show you which nearby locations support Apple Pay.

The Apple Watch’s new operating system, watchOS 2, is now available as a developer beta. Its enhancements include timepiece functions, improvements in communication, health and fitness, and capability for Apple Pay, Maps, and Siri.

Changes to Apple Pay and More

Vice President of Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey said the automatic payment service will be in one million locations by this time next month. Also next month, the service will have its U.K. debut in many of the top British banks, making it accessible to 70 percent of credit and debit cards in the U.K.

Apple Pay’s passbook is being renamed Wallet, and it promises to be a single place for users’ credit and debit cards, loyalty cards, boarding passes and other digital items.

Next, Susan Prescott, vice president of applications, introduced News, a new app that gathers customized feeds from user-chosen media sources. A machine-learning algorithm in the app searches articles to deliver content that it knows the user will want.

New features for the iPad announced at WWDC include the QuickType keyboard in iOS 9 to make typing and editing faster and easier as well as better multitasking. For example, a user can work in Notes and Safari at the same time using a split screen. Also, with the new Split View a user can see a picture-in-picture. So, for instance, a user can watch a basketball game in a small window while working in another app — but this feature is only available on the most powerful iPad.

Apple said the battery life for the iPhone 6 has been extended by one hour. There’s also a new switch for low-power mode that will give users about three additional hours of batter life by automatically turning off a host of functions they might not have even known existed.

Word of the streaming service, Apple Music, first emerged Sunday and was a focal point of the WWDC keynote. The service consists of a music-purchase app, a streaming app, a radio service and a social network. Jimmy Iovine, the co-founder of Beats Music, which Apple purchased last year, presented the service. Iovine said the service is not programmed by machines but by humans, giving it an edge over certain other music services.

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