SAN FRANCISCO (MCT) — Apple kicked off its worldwide developers conference Monday morning by talking about the newest versions of its desktop and mobile operating systems, OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.
Monday’s keynote began with a video celebrating developers and the mobile applications they build for Apple’s devices. Apple CEO Tim Cook then arrived on stage and maintained that theme, thanking developers for their work to expand and improve the Apple ecosystem.
“We now have 9 million registered developers,” Cook noted, explaining that the total increased 50 percent in the past year, the largest developer growth in Apple history.
Cook announced that the newest version of Apple’s desktop software, OS Mavericks, is now running on more than half of Mac desktops less than a year after its introduction; Cook compared that with Windows 8, which he said is running on just 14 percent of Microsoft computers. Cook returned to that theme later, showing that 89 percent of Apple mobile devices were using the latest iOS, while only 9 percent of Android users have the newest version of Google’s mobile operating system.
Apple software executive Craig Federighi took the stage first to show off the coming version of OS X, which will be called Yosemite in continuing the pattern of naming Apple operating system rollouts after places instead of animals, which began last year with the introduction of Mavericks, named after the famed Peninsula surfing spot. Federighi’s highlights of the new operating system included many features familiar to users of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, including translucent backgrounds and a converged search feature.
Bundled with Yosemite will be an update to iCloud called iCloud Drive, which allows users to see their saved files in folders on Apple and Microsoft devices, and new email features including the ability to send larger files and manipulate photos and documents such as PDFs. Apple also featured a revamped Safari Web browser that Federighi promised would be more power-efficient and faster than rivals Firefox or Chrome.
Translucent backgrounds weren’t the only synergies between Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems announced Monday: Federighi showed off Handoff, a new feature that simplifies transitions from mobile devices and desktops with the ability to signal that you are switching devices and interact with the same data. The converged interface also works with text messages and phone calls, allowing users to answer a call or respond to an SMS message to their iPhone without leaving their Mac.
A developer preview of Yosemite was made available immediately, with a public beta arriving this summer before Yosemite rolls out in the fall; Mavericks was officially released in October 2013.
Cook strolled out after the Yosemite introduction to debut iOS 8, the refreshed mobile operating system from Apple. Again, Cook brought out Federighi to demonstrate the operating system’s new features, which include the ability to respond to alerts without leaving the current app.
Apple focused on new wrinkles to its Messages app, one of the most used features of the iPhone. iOS 8 will include the ability to send audio and video messages without leaving the Messages app, as well as take and send photos without changing to the Camera application.
While many attendees arrived early for the 10 a.m. keynote address, other attendees faced tough travel to the event as San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency suffered long delays amid a “sick out” by employees embroiled in a contract dispute. Upon arrival, guests were greeted by a collection of protesters seeking to publicize Apple’s tax practices, which they believe help the Cupertino company avoid payment: The group held aloft an oversized, fake $5 billion check from Apple to Bay Area communities.
Inside Moscone, a calmer atmosphere fed through the building while those who made it in the center were ushered to the third-floor theater where the keynote will take place, which was packed and buzzing less than a half-hour before the scheduled start time.
WWDC keynotes were the home of iPhone debuts until 2011, when those highly anticipated events moved to their own schedule. Since then, Apple has mostly used WWDC to show off new versions of Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems and new software offerings — in 2013, Apple debuted the beginnings of its CarPlay automotive offering as well as its iTunes Radio streaming service along with iOS 7 and OS Mavericks. Several cars were parked within the event center Monday morning, suggesting Apple would again focus on in-car offerings this year.
Apple investors, developers and fans had high expectations for the event despite expectations that no new gadgets would appear.
“While Apple’s software-only events have rarely captured the same level of excitement as its hardware launches, we believe this should change,” Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope wrote in a note late last week. “Indeed, with the potential for substantial hardware differentiation and few new hardware categories that can substantially impact Apple’s $175 billion revenue base, iOS platform differentiation is becoming increasingly critical.”
Reports leading up to the event suggested the Cupertino company would roll out new software that helps users control their homes or monitor their health, along with possibly providing more detail about the future of Beats, the headphones and streaming-audio company that Apple plans to purchase for $3 billion, its largest-ever acquisition.
Apple enters WWDC on a Wall Street roll, reaching 52-week highs in each of the past five trading sessions ahead of a 7-to-1 stock split expected to take place June 9 for investors who owned shares as of Monday. The gains ahead of Apple’s annual event are nothing new, as BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk pointed out in a note Friday: Apple has gained an average of 4.1 percent in the month leading up to WWDC in the previous six years, but has fallen or failed to move on the day of and day after the event in each of those years, with average declines of 1.4 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.
“However, this time around there doesn’t seem to be high expectations for any major new product releases,” Piecyk noted in his report. “Maybe that could enable Apple to break its six-year streak of selling off the day of and day after the WWDC conference.”
This year, Apple shares gained 7.2 percent in the month of May, but were sliding Monday morning: at 9 a.m. Pacific time, the end of the morning trading session on Wall Street, Apple shares had dropped 0.2 percent to $631.53.