Apple WWDC 2012: New MacBook Pro, Better Siri, OS X Mountain Lion, iCloud and iOS 6 Updates

On Monday, Apple Inc. at the WWDC 2012 took the wraps off its own new mobile mapping service and made its enhanced Siri voice-search available for iPads as it rolled out souped-up software and hardware, including thinner and more powerful next-gen MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptop computers, to help it wage war on Google Inc.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the updated MacBook laptops, and new features for the iPhone and iPad, as well as the release of the new operating system for iPads and iPhones, iOS 6, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday, June 11, 2012. Photo: Apple Inc.

Apple CEO Tim Cook  at the company’s annual conference for software developers (WWDC) on Monday unveiled new services – such as mapping application and updated Siri software — to help keep at bay Google and its fast-growing Android mobile platform.

Apple’s new mobile operating software – the iOS6 – comes with a mapping system “built from the ground up,” said software chief Scott Forstall, sidelining the Google map service that the Internet giant has invested heavily in. Company’s new map application comes with 3D images of cities called “Flyover” along with real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation.

The 2012 Apple’s annual conference for software developers in San Francisco also brought news of fresh features in Siri, the iPhone’s voice recognition software which is now coming to the latest iPad. Siri now recites a larger database of answers, especially sports, restaurants and movies. It is also integrated into the new mapping service.

Apple is also working with car manufacturers to let you use Siri from the steering wheel of vehicles. Auto companies like Toyota, GM, Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Audi say they will integrate Siri in the next 12 months.The software will be available in Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean.

Finally, executives said Apple has integrated Facebook deeper into the new operating system, allowing Siri-users to post photos with voice commands. “We’ve been working very closely with Facebook to create the best Facebook experience ever on a mobile device,” said Mr.Forstall, Apple senior vice president of iOS.

At 0.7 inches, the new MacBook Pro – Apple’s highest-end laptop – ranks among the thinnest laptops in the market and will hit store shelves months before many Microsoft Windows-equipped “Ultrabooks.” They will employ the “retina” displays that have won strong positive reviews for the new iPad, but start at an eye-popping $2,199 price tag.

“Today we’ve updated the entire MacBook line with faster processors, graphics, memory, flash storage and USB 3 connectivity,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “We’ve made the world’s best portable family even better and we think users are going to love the performance advances in both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.”

Phil Schiller outlined how the redesigned MacBook Air notebooks, also unveiled at the conference, will be about $100 cheaper on average than predecessors, but sport quicker Intel Corp processors, potentially eating into territory staked out by Hewlett-Packard, Dell Inc and other PC makers.

“Everyone is trying to copy it, they find it’s not so easy,” Mr Schiller said. The high-performance MacBook Pro will include the so-called retina display used on the new iPads, giving an extra high resolution screen. “It is simply the best computer Apple has ever made,” he added.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro will be 1.8cm thick and weigh 2kg and include the retina display, described as “the world’s highest resolution notebook display” with over five million pixels, three million more than an HD television. “The MacBook Pro with Retina display pushes the limits of performance and portability like no other notebook,” said Tim Cook.

Analysts have speculated that the company will begin aggressively competing on price, gradually shrinking the premium its Macs carry in general.

More than ever, Apple finds itself in a pitched battle with Google: in smartphones, cloud computing, and a never-ending competition to attract the best software developers. That is crucial as Apple looks to draw users deeper into its applications ecosystem.

Cook told the audience that customers have downloaded more than 30 billion Apple apps so far, choosing from more than 650,000 apps — the largest library in the industry.

Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different weapons. Apple’s vise-like grip on its ecosystem – with the closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the hardware – stands in sharp contrast to Google’s free-for-all approach.

The open system approach, reminiscent of Microsoft Corp’s hugely successful strategy of creating standard-setting software that runs on a variety of hardware, has allowed Android to capture the market lead in smartphones, albeit with nothing close to Apple’s profit margins.

Android has also helped create several potent hardware rivals to Apple. Samsung Electronics’ Android-driven Galaxy SIII is drawing favorable comparisons to iPhone and Amazon.com Inc’s cheaper Kindle Fire is challenging Apple in tablets and digital content.

The move – years in the making – to replace Google Maps is a dramatic example of how the rivalry between the companies has been evolving.

Google has invested huge sums in mapping technology over the years, and about half its map traffic now comes from iPhones and iPads. Among other things, the traffic from those devices reveals valuable location data that helps improve the mapping service and provides features like real-time traffic reports.

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