Apple Announces Smart Speaker, Device Upgrades, and iOS 11
Tech giant Apple made several big announcements today at its 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), taking place from June 5-9 in San Jose, California. Most of the news focused on the coming updates for its various operating systems, but CEO Tim Cook also introduced some new hardware.
One announcement generating a lot of buzz is Apple's new HomePod. It's a smart wireless speaker powered by the Siri AI that seems designed to compete with the likes of Amazon's Alexa and Google's Home speaker. Apple's speaker will be launching in the U.S., U.K., and Australia in December, with additional markets to come next year.
iOS Is the Big Winner
On the software side, upgrades made to Apple's iOS mobile operating system seem to be the real showstoppers, with the release of iOS 11 (pictured above). Apple also announced a new macOS dubbed "High Sierra" that should please Mac users on both the professional and consumer side. In addition, Apple's tvOS and watchOS received minor updates.
Among the new features of iOS 11 is the ability to make person-to-person payments through Apple's messaging app, thanks to new integration with the Apple Pay system. Meanwhile, Siri has a new voice, a new visual interface, the ability to perform task management, and a new translation feature that is still in beta. Apple is leaning into artificial intelligence (AI) with improved machine learning and on-device learning aimed at making Siri more predictive and proactive.
The iPhone control center, lock screen, and notification center are all getting major visual redesigns, with an eye toward offering more information to the user. Apple's navigation app is also getting an upgrade and will now be able to display floorplan-level maps within malls and airports for detailed navigation assistance.
iPad Gets Big Update
The mobile operating system will also get a new file management system that is much more closely aligned with the traditional file systems found on desktop and laptop computers. That should help Apple reposition the iPad as a work device capable of carrying out all the usual functionality users want from their laptops.
Along the same lines, the iPad's multitasking capabilities are also getting a major upgrade, thanks to the new App Switcher feature. The newest iOS will now provide something much closer to true multitasking capabilities, offering the ability to drag-and-drop assets, such as images and text, from one app to another. The new iOS also features a new keyboard that gives access to punctuation features by flicking down on keys, allowing for faster typing.
But the best new addition for people using the iPad in a professional setting may be the operating system's new feature that allows users to mark up virtually documents that they can access on their iPads using the Apple Pencil. That includes the ability to add drawings to typewritten documents, mark up text files, and take handwritten notes within Apple's native Notes app.
Notes is also getting a built-in scanner, meaning users will now be able to scan printed documents, import them into Notes, and then add their signatures or other handwritten content.
All in all, it was a big day for Apple, with more big news expected tomorrow, on Day 2 of the worldwide developers conference.
Image credit: Product shots by Apple; iStock/Artist's concept.
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