Apple Takes on Dropbox and WhatsApp with Integrated Apps

iCloud Drive
The iCloud service could pose a challenge to Dropbox and other online storage providers
Apple has taken on Dropbox and WhatsApp with a series of software upgrades that mimic the rival apps’ services.

At its annual conference for software developers, the firm unveiled iCloud Drive, an internet-based storage app, and improved integration for calls and messages across Apple devices.

Apple updated both its mobile and desktop operating systems.

The company also showed off HealthKit, new software that works with third-party wearable health devices.

A parallel app, called Health, measures users’ personalised healthcare statistics, and even contacts their hospital directly if it notices irregularities.

“The announcements represent an ambitious move to diversify the Apple ecosystem into a number of new segments,” said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at the CCS Insight consultancy.

“Critics will complain of no new devices but the Worldwide Developers Conference creates the foundation for the products Tim Cook is promising in the second half of the year.”

Automated Homes

The latest version of Apple’s operating system for desktops and laptops, entitled OS X 10.10 Yosemite, features a flattened design, and closer integration with other Apple devices, allowing users to make and receive calls and text messages from their iPhone on their desktops or laptops.

Like its predecessor, Mavericks, OS X Yosemite will be made available as a free update to existing Mac users.

Apple’s iMessage app was given extra features, some of which are similar to rival service WhatsApp, recently acquired by Facebook for $19bn (£11.3bn).

Users will be able to easily create and modify group messages, send voice clips with a single swipe, and even create and exchange short video clips.

Apple Yosemite unveil
Apple has named the latest version of its Mac OS after Yosemite National Park

Apple’s software engineering vice-president, Craig Federighi, unveiled HomeKit, which allows users to control their home environment with smartphones.

“Only your iPhone can open your garage door, or unlock your door,” he told the audience in San Francisco.

“With Siri integration you can say something like ‘get ready for bed’ and be assured that your garage door is closed, your door is locked, the thermostat is lowered and your lights are dimmed.”

The company also announced it would open up its Touch ID fingerprint recognition technology to third-party software developers – allowing device owners to avoid having to type in passwords – and let users install alternative keyboards including Nuance’s Swype.

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Analysis: Richard Taylor, BBC North America Technology Correspondent

Today’s non-announcements of much-rumoured products like an “iWatch” will disappoint those who had hoped for the “amazing and exciting” new devices that Apple boss Tim Cook has promised this year.

But in truth this conference was always going to be about software rather than new devices; the Cupertino-based firm will leave those to the Autumn in time for the holiday season spending spree.

As predicted Apple is at least dipping its toes into new waters. If the health-centric features are well-executed, and can reconcile the various methods used by fitness band makers to measure our vitals, then it could indeed prove a powerful one-stop shop for this information. The big unknown: does it presage the introduction of Apple’s own biometric-sensor wristwatch?

Similarly the HomeKit is a welcome attempt to unify the multitude of smart devices beginning to appear in our homes – but here precious little detail was forthcoming.

As people increasingly use multiple devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones – much of the focus was predictably on streamlining the user experience between them. Amongst the many enhancements were some genuinely exciting innovations – like making or receiving phone calls on any nearby Apple device.

But other “innovations” will already be somewhat familiar to Android smartphone users – like iCloud Drive, predictive text and the ability to use different keyboards. Apple will hope that its painstaking attention to design and usability will give it an edge, and buy it some time to win over industry-watchers anxiously waiting for Tim Cook to deliver on “the next big thing”.

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‘Big Shot’

One analyst noted that some of Apple’s introductions would be likely to impact other tech firms.

“iCloud drive [is a] big shot at consumer Dropbox, if it works well,” tweeted Benedict Evans, an analyst at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz – a nod to the fact that Apple has faced problems with its online services in the past.

Former chief executive Steve Jobs had previously attempted to buy Dropbox, reportedly warning its founders that the Mac-maker would go after the same market.

Last week, Apple announced it was buying headphone maker and music streaming service Beats for $3bn – the company’s biggest acquisition to date.

No further details on the Beats deal were revealed, but co-founder and hip-hop star Dr Dre did make an appearance as a caller in a demonstration of how a Mac computer can now be used to make and receive calls if it is linked to the owner’s iPhone.

Apple shares, which have been doing well recently, fell more than 1% following the keynote address.

BBC News

 

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About the Author

Ivan Castilho is a citizen of the world; CEO at Mindfield Digital and Executive Director at AppleMagazine, and Techlife News. Ivan's been an avid Apple user and consumer since 2008, with a major in Marketing and extensive experience in strategic management and consulting for tech companies. Hobbies include photography, design, and music.