Ap­ple makes up­grades, pushes into stream­ing mu­sic

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY RYAN NAKASHIMA AND BRAN­DON BAI­LEY

Ap­ple an­nounced a ma­jor new foray into stream­ing mu­sic on Mon­day as it showed off a host of new soft­ware fea­tures for its iPhones, iPads and Mac com­put­ers.

The US$ 10- a- month mu­sic ser­vice is called Ap­ple Mu­sic and com­bines on-de­mand lis­ten­ing, a 24/7 ra­dio sta­tion hosted by live DJs and a fo­rum for artists to give fans be­hind- the- scenes con­tent from up­com­ing re­leases.

The ser­vice, which was an­nounced dur­ing Ap­ple’s an­nual soft­ware con­fer­ence Mon­day, will be launched later this month in more than 100 coun­tries. It comes at a time when iTunes songs and al­bum sales are fall­ing, while stream­ing mu­sic lead­ers like Spo­tify and Deezer are gain­ing sub­scribers and rev­enue.

The mu­sic ser­vice was the big­gest news of the com­pany’s five­day con­fer­ence, but Ap­ple also an­nounced a host of new up­grades and ser­vices com­ing later this year to the op­er­at­ing soft­ware for its popular iPhones, iPads and Mac com­put­ers.

The new fea­tures in­clud­ing en­hance­ments to Siri, the com­pany’s voice-ac­ti­vated dig­i­tal as­sis­tant, as well as Ap­ple Pay, Ap­ple Maps and the Ap­ple Watch. Ex­ec­u­tives also men­tioned a new stream­ing TV ser­vice that Ap­ple is re­port­edly hop­ing to an­nounce later this year.

An­a­lysts say the new ser­vices and up­grades, which will be avail­able when Ap­ple re­leases free up­dates to its iOS and Mac OS soft­ware this fall, are part of a broader strat­egy to make Ap­ple’s de­vices in­dis­pens­able.

While many com­pa­nies make smartphones and com­put­ers, “Ap­ple’s crown jew­els are its soft­ware and on­line ser­vices,” said an­a­lyst Daniel Ives, who fol­lows tech com­pa­nies for FBR Cap­i­tal Mar­kets.

Some of the new fea­tures could pro­vide new prof­its for the tech pow­er­house. But per­haps more im­por­tantly, they may help keep cus­tomers from de­fect­ing to ri­vals like Google, which showed off new fea­tures for its com­pet­ing An­droid mo­bile soft­ware at its event last month.

Here’s a look at the new fea­tures Ap­ple an­nounced:

Ap­ple Mu­sic

The ser­vice rep­re­sents a chance for Ap­ple to come from be­hind in a dig­i­tal mu­sic field that it once led. With a lengthy three-month free trial, a US$15-a-month plan for up to six fam­ily mem­bers, and the abil­ity to push the app to 100s of mil­lions of iPhone and iPad users, the launch could mark a ma­jor mile­stone in dig­i­tal mu­sic.

Be­sides of­fer­ing the new sub­scrip­tion plan, the app also will con­tinue to al­low down­load pur­chases from iTunes. It will be avail­able this sum­mer for Ap­ple de­vices and Win­dows PCs, and in a break from Ap­ple’s usual prac­tice, it will also be re­leased as an app for An­droid de­vices this fall.

The live ra­dio sta­tion, called “Beats 1,” puts a twist on In­ter­net ra­dio, a field led by Pan­dora, by hav­ing hu­man DJs host a con­stant stream of talk and mu­sic from Los An­ge­les, New York and Lon­don, led by for­mer BBC host Zane Lowe.

The com­pany is also tout­ing a fea­ture called “Connect,” which artists can use to share notes, record­ings and pho­tos with their fans who sub­scribe to Ap­ple Mu­sic.

“Ap­ple Mu­sic is the next chap­ter in mu­sic,” CEO Tim Cook told an es­ti­mated 5,000 soft­ware de­vel­op­ers at­tend­ing the con­fer­ence. “It’ll change the way you ex­pe­ri­ence mu­sic for­ever.”

Siri

Ap­ple’s voice-ac­ti­vated dig­i­tal as­sis­tant will be in­te­grated into the new mu­sic ser­vice, so sub­scribers can ask it to play songs from movie sound­tracks, find hit songs from a cer­tain year, or cre­ate playlists from top songs in dif­fer­ent gen­res.

Siri is also gain­ing more in­tel­li­gence, ac­cord­ing to Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tives, who demon­strated by hav­ing Siri do things like search an iPhone-users’ pho­tos with a voice com­mand, such as “Show me pic­tures from San Fran­cisco last July.”

With the com­ing soft­ware up­date, Siri also will be able to an­tic­i­pate cer­tain re­quests and re­mem­ber web­sites, said Ap­ple se­nior vice pres­i­dent Craig Fed­erighi. So, a user can tell Siri to “re­mem­ber this” and it will later show a link to a web­site viewed ear­lier.

Siri will also gain the abil­ity to search within apps loaded on the iPhone, to pro­vide links to in­for­ma­tion from a restau­rant or food app, for ex­am­ple.

Ap­ple Pay

Along with mak­ing pay­ments tied to a credit or debit card, Ap­ple Pay will soon in­cor­po­rate store-is­sued pay­ment cards and re­wards from loy­alty pro­grams of­fered by mer­chants like Wal­greens and Dunkin Donuts. That could be a key to mak­ing the ser­vice more use­ful for shop­pers, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts at For­rester Re­search.

Ap­ple says Ap­ple Pay has been quickly em­braced by shop­pers and mer­chants since it was launched last fall, but it hasn’t re­leased many fi­nan­cial de­tails. For­rester an­a­lysts said in an email that the idea of pay­ing with a smart­phone in stores is still new and it’s un­clear if con­sumers view it as a nov­elty or an es­sen­tial shop­ping tool.

Ap­ple Watch

Ap­ple an­nounced an up­date to the watch op­er­at­ing sys­tem and said it will re­lease the pro­gram­ming tools that in­de­pen­dent de­vel­op­ers need to build apps that can in­ter­act di­rectly with the watch’s hard­ware and sen­sors.

The watch still re­quires a link to the iPhone to per­form many func­tions, but Ap­ple’s Kevin Lynch said the new soft­ware up­grade will let the watch connect di­rectly to Wi-fi net­works, so it will be able to pro­vide some ser­vices even if the owner’s iPhone isn’t nearby.

While tech ex­perts see big op­por­tu­ni­ties in wear­able de­vices, some con­sumers are “still on the fence,” said app-builder Jor­dan Edel­son of Ap­pe­tizer Mo­bile. He said the new app-build­ing tools will help de­vel­op­ers show how use­ful the watch can be.

Ap­ple did not re­lease any sales fig­ures for the watch, which it be­gan sell­ing in April.

AP/AFP

(Left) Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook, right, hugs Beats by Dre co-founder and Ap­ple em­ployee Jimmy Iovine at the Ap­ple World­wide De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, Mon­day, June 8. (Right) Su­san Prescott, Ap­ple vice pres­i­dent for prod­uct man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing, speaks dur­ing the Ap­ple WWDC on Mon­day in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia. Ap­ple an­nounced a new OS X, El Cap­i­tan, iOS 9 and Ap­ple Mu­sic dur­ing the key­note at the an­nual de­vel­op­ers con­fer­ence that runs through Fri­day.

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