Apple has set developers in a frenzy with an overwhelming spread of software updates, unveiled at its Worldwide Developers Conference.
The new releases include updates for its desktop operating system Mac OS X, and iOS for the iPad and iPhone.
The next version of the Mac operating system will be called OS X Yosemite and features a radical overhaul of the interface, which makes it look more like iOS. It has clearer fonts, translucent effects and bold simple colours in icons and menu bars.
Most of Apple’s applications get new features in this update too. Mail will now allow for large multimedia file transfers and lets users draw and doodle inside emails. Safari and iPhoto have been redesigned again, taking on some of the leaner visual characteristics of their iPad counterparts.
Spotlight, Apple’s search technology, now reaches beyond the device itself and out into the internet, revealing not only local files that match your search term, but also matches from search engines such as Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo.
Underneath the bonnet, much closer integration with iOS devices allows for what Apple calls continuity. Apple computers, iPhones and iPads will now be able to detect when they are close to each other, allowing users to seamlessly transfer from one device to the other. So a half-completed email, for example, will instantly appear on the other device, enabling you to finish writing it.
You’ll also be able to make phone calls and send text messages from your computer now that it is more efficiently integrated with your phone.
And after failing in its bid to buy the file sharing service Dropbox, Apple is introducing a similar service of its own, called iCloud drive. This should enable seamless access to files and folders between Macs and iOS and between applications on iOS. Photographers can access all their images, rather than just those on the iPhone.
For the developers
Apple has massively increased the functionality and features that developers can use in their apps. Rumours that the company would move into medical information and home automation have turned out to be true, although it is doing it through software rather than in hardware.
New product Healthkit is an underlying framework for managing health information across applications, while HomeKit is a common network protocol allowing for unified control of devices around the home from a single application.
So you can close your garage door or dim your lights using your phone. You’ll even be able to set a scene using your phone so that all the actions you would normally do in a given scenario happen automatically. If you’re going to bed, you could lock your door, turn off the lights and set your alarm in one go.
A whole new language
The largest gasp from the audience at WWDC came when Apple announced a new programming language called Swift. For many developers, the major stumbling block is the complexity of the programming language Objective-C, which is used to develop apps for both iOS and Mac OS X.
If Swift does a fraction of what Apple claims it can do, application development will become significantly easier. We can expect a massive growth in the number of apps available if the language lives up to its promise.
All this new software is available for developers now and should be released for users in the autumn.