Apple opens up iOS, struts Mac-iPhone-iPad integration

At WWDC reveals pieces of iOS 8 and OS X 'Yosemite' to developers, trumpets health and home, touts 'Continuity'

Apple CEO Tim Cook and one of his top lieutenants today outlined the next iterations of the company's critical iOS and the less-important OS X before an enthusiastic audience of developers.

Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote focused on software -- the weeklong smorgasbord is for developers, not customers -- and for the first time in the last three years passed on delivering a small side of hardware.

But Apple hammered hard on the software side, trumpeting changes both for end users, and in a departure of sorts, dedicated a large swath of keynote time to talk up the new iOS SDK (software developers kit), which will offer some 4,000 new APIs (application programming interfaces) -- including ones that Apple had previously kept to itself.

"This was more about the future of Apple than the present," said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, in an interview after the keynote. "This is not something we can digest today and see the impact, but it's very important. It's not just about their stuff now."

Milanesi was talking about the long-awaited openness that Apple demonstrated as it ticked off a host of ways developers will be able to access iOS at the system level, create cloud-based apps that rely on Apple's iCloud service for the back end, and tie home automation and health care hardware to the iPhone as the ultimate controller.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, concurred with Milanesi. "Today was about getting more open and growing the ecosystem, by letting developers' apps access key parts of iOS. That's been a key attribute of Android, but now Apple's matching that," said Moorhead.

The other major theme, said analysts, was the enhanced integration between iOS and OS X, exemplified by "Continuity," an umbrella term to cover several features, including the existing AirDrop, which now works between the two OSes; the new "Handoff" that uses proximity awareness to let people start a task on one device, then finish on another; and the ability to create an ad hoc Wi-Fi hotspot with, say, an iPhone, without having to pre-configure the smartphone or enter a password, as is now the case.

Milanesi was impressed with Continuity and its implications for Apple. "Really, if you have an iPhone and iPad, how long will it take you to get a Mac after today?" she asked.

Phones calls on a Mac
The 'Continuity' features built into OS X Yosemite allow a desktop user to answer phone calls coming into an iPhone.

Milanesi has been a believer in Apple's multi-device strategy -- as opposed to Microsoft's push to combine devices, best demonstrated by Redmond's own Surface Pro 3 -- and saw Continuity as evidence that it would find favor among the customers Apple wants most to court: those with one Cupertino-designed device who have not yet been convinced that an all-Apple ecosystem can work.

Cook boasted that iOS 8, this year's iPhone and iPad operating system, was "the biggest release since the launch of the App Store" and required "two stories, not one," which the keynote split into different presentations, one that highlighted end-user changes, another targeting developers.

Both were conducted by Craig Federighi, who leads OS X and iOS development and spent nearly the entire two hours on stage.

While iOS 8 will not be visually tweaked -- that was iOS 7's job last year -- it will include a host of new or enhanced tools.

Computerworld's Ken Mingis and IDG Enterprise's Keith Shaw discuss what they liked (and didn't) about Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference keynote.

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