New Apple software to control homes

Romsey Advertiser: Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi speaks about the Apple HomeKit app at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco (AP) Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi speaks about the Apple HomeKit app at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco (AP)

Technology giant Apple has introduced new software that will allow users to control their homes directly from mobile devices.

The iPhone maker also introduced a new health app that will enable users to store health and fitness data from different apps in a single place.

Speaking about the software updates at its annual developer's conference, WWDC, in San Francisco, CEO Tim Cook said: "This is a milestone year for this conference. It's our 25th year."

The iPhone and iPad maker introduced a new piece of software called HomeKit, which will allow developers to create apps that enable users to control different appliances and features around their home directly from an iPhone or iPad.

A feature like this had been rumoured in the run-up to the event, with the idea of the 'internet of things' - the concept that 'smart' objects around the home can be linked together - rapidly becoming popular. Samsung has previously admitted it believes this will be the biggest trend of the next 10 years.

The new health system, called HealthKit, comes with a supporting app, named Health, and is where users can view all of their various fitness statistics such as heart rate and distance covered.

Apple has been under pressure to move into the health sector more following rival Samsung's introduction of a dedicated wristband, the Gear Fit that syncs with an app on the owner's smartphone.

There had been rumours of Apple unveiling new hardware, however the Cupertino-based company instead focused on their software, and the desktop and mobile systems that run on their devices.

The company's desktop software, known as OS X and updated annually, has been given another overhaul and renamed OS X Yosemite, following the trend of being named after areas of California, where the company is based.

The design of the desktop software has been tweaked, including a new search bar that appears at the centre of the screen and uses sources on and offline to find documents as well as make internet searches.

Demonstrating the new software on-stage in San Francisco, Apple's Craig Federighi said: "Another year, time for another name. Yosemite has a great new interface, as well as a gorgeous new dock and beautiful icons. This all makes for a more usable OS X. The best ever.

"It's a wonderful new release and it's available to developers today. Everyone else will get it in the fall, and it will be free."

There had been talk in the run-up to WWDC of rapper Dr Dre making some sort of appearance, following the purchase of his headphone manufacturer Beats Electronics last week, and the crowd was not disappointed.

The rapper took a call from Mr Federighi, who was showing off a new feature that enables users to make phone calls from their desktop computer. Mr Federighi welcomed him to Apple following the acquisition of Beats for three billion dollars (£1.7 billion).

"I can't wait to work with the team at Apple", said Dre, before joking about attempting to beat Mr Cook to the office in the morning.

The software that runs on iPhone, known as iOS, was also updated and moved onto it's 8th version with some tweaks to the interface.

One of the key introductions in iOS 8 will be better acknowledgement of SMS text messages, following criticism that users struggled to switch from Apple's own iMessage service to SMS.

While it is not yet clear whether the new features completely remove that problem, SMS messages are now recognised on Mac desktops for the first time. Mr Federighi confirmed all the new software would be available to consumers "in the fall".

Mr Cook said of iOS 8: "This is a giant release - it's really two stories, not one: great user features, and incredible developer features."

Following the recent announcement of a patent revolving around audio recognition, Apple also introduced the Shazam song recognition feature to Siri, it's voice-activated personal assistant, so it can now be used to identify music.

A lot of emphasis during the keynote address, which saw multiple demonstrations from Apple staff, was on the subject of continuity. The company's AirDrop technology, which lets users send media files instantly, has now been updated to work with Macs as well, a previous criticism of the feature. This drew large cheers from the conference crowd.

A new feature called Hand Off will also allow users to open and start working on a document on a different device when in close proximity. Demonstrating to the crowd of developers and industry experts, Mr Federighi used a new icon in the corner of his iPad screen to open a document he had been working on on a Mac, instantly.

The App Store will also be receiving several new features, it was announced, with new tabs and search features to help users find the apps they are looking for. According to Apple, there are now more than 1.2 million apps in the App Store, and the company reported that the number of app downloads has surpassed 75 billion.

Following a series of negative stories surrounding in-app purchases, Apple also unveiled a new app called Family Sharing, that will allow up to six members of the same family to share content from their devices.

This will include location as well as iTunes library, and because only one payment card be registered to a shared account, permission messages are sent to parents when their children try to download apps.

A host of new tools and software kits aimed at app developers were also unveiled, given more time on-stage than ever before as Apple seeks to retain its place at the top of the technology industry. A new coding language to write apps was announced as part of this.

Those looking for a major new product have been left disappointed, however.

In what is traditionally an event that focusses on software, the Steve Jobs-founded tech giant did not unveil any new hardware, despite persistent rumours in the run-up to the event.

But at least one announcement is expected this year, where a new iPhone will be introduced to run alongside the new software put forward here.

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