Apple’s WWDC Highlights: Death of iTunes and $6,000 Macs


SAN JOSE, Calif. — In the history of Apple software, few services have been as important and influential as iTunes. It upended the music industry and popularized a new way to buy music, allowing people to purchase songs for a dollar.

On Monday, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple said it was killing iTunes on Mac computers — a long-anticipated development that has already occurred on iPhones. The end of iTunes was the most prominent announcement in an opening keynote address that also highlighted a separate app store for the Apple Watch, a $6,000 Mac and the company’s continued emphasis on privacy.

For years, Apple users have complained that iTunes was outdated, particularly as streaming music over the internet gained popularity. Apple resisted change for years because iTunes was such a fundamental feature of its Mac computers. But with its new version of Mac software, Apple took the leap and split iTunes’ services into three separate apps.

[Although it got a little bloated over the years, we will miss iTunes, Kevin Roose writes.]

Now people will have access to music on one app, to podcasts on another, and to TV and movies on a third. The approach supports Apple’s push to make its Apple Music and Apple TV apps sizable businesses. The services already have their own dedicated iPhone apps. Now they will have the same on Macs.

Apple took a major swipe at the data-collection practices of other companies, including rivals Google and Facebook, with several new privacy features for its devices.

For years, smartphone apps have been notorious for collecting people’s location and using that data to better target them with ads, or worse. On Monday, Apple said that on the newest version of its operating system, iOS 13, users would be able to share their location with an app once. Each time the app wants access to the user’s location again, it will have to ask again.

The new iPhone software will also be more transparent when apps are tracking location in the background, and it will block apps from using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections to figure out a user’s location.

Apple also unveiled a new way for people to sign into third-party apps and services using an Apple ID, a feature called Sign in With Apple.

Google and Facebook have leveraged their ubiquity for years by enabling people to sign into other apps and websites with their Google or Facebook accounts. But doing so sometimes meant the companies — Google, Facebook and the third parties — could collect more data about you.

On iPhones and other Apple devices, people can now sign in with a more private Apple ID. With the feature, Apple said, third-party apps in some cases will receive only the user’s name and email address. But if users choose, the feature also allows them to conceal their email addresses by generating a random address that forwards the messages.

[Read more: Apple is believed to be under scrutiny by the Justice Department, as government agencies set their sights on the tech industry.]

Apple introduced a new version of WatchOS, the software system powering its Apple Watch. Kevin Lynch, the Apple executive who oversees the watch software, said more Apple apps were coming to the watch, like audiobooks, voice memos and a calculator. In addition, the watch includes its own App Store, and third-party apps can now run independently. They no longer require a companion app loaded on an iPhone.

This move is a big step toward making the Apple Watch independent from the iPhone. What that means is that at some point in the future, consumers may be able to buy an Apple Watch without having to purchase an iPhone. In other words, Android smartphone users may one day be able to use an Apple Watch.

Apple has wanted to make the iPad the laptop killer for years. While the hardware is svelte and lightweight, the software hasn’t been robust enough to make the iPad the primary work computer for many people. On Monday, Apple announced maybe its biggest effort yet to change that: a new operating system specifically for iPads, called iPadOS.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief, showed off how the new software made iPads work much more like a desktop computer. The software enables users to more easily switch between apps, use two apps at once, manage downloads, browse the web, and search and share files. In a clear sign of the new target audience of corporate workers, Mr. Federighi showed how he could now work in two Microsoft Word documents at once.

“That’s enterprising right there,” he said.

One of the biggest applause lines was when he announced that users could now plug in external hard drives.

Apple showed an update for its Mac Pro, its professional desktop computer. The last version, introduced in 2013, was widely panned by professional customers. Apple admitted that the product was a failure.

The new Mac Pro looks like a bulky tower, abandoning a previous design that resembled a round trash can. It includes a 28-core processor and lots of memory. The new Mac is also expandable: People can add different graphics cards, for example, to enhance its performance.

The Mac Pro looks like an intensely powerful computer. The previous generation failed largely because it was not easily customizable and had performance issues. The product left professional and creative users — people who work in design and video editing — to conclude that Apple had abandoned professional customers and cared only about mainstream consumers. With the new Mac Pro, Apple is suggesting it still has interest in this niche market.

The Mac Pro starts at a modest $6,000 and should be available this fall.

Apple also announced its next computer operating system, MacOS Catalina. The new operating system has some new features, like the ability for an iPad’s screen to be used as a second monitor for the Mac. The Mac will also include Screen Time, Apple’s tool to help people restrict the time they spend on their devices.

The last time Apple announced a new Mac Pro, Tim Cook, the company’s chief executive, went on prime-time television to tout that it would be the first Apple computer in years to be made by American workers.

Then Apple discovered that making a computer in the United States wasn’t so easy. The company ran into a number of headaches at its Texas plant that delayed the Mac Pro’s launch, including a shortage of screws, as we detailed in a piece this year.

That experience is particularly relevant now, as the White House digs into a trade war with China. Apple assembles most of its products, including iPhones, in China.

When Apple announced its new Mac Pro on Monday, it did not mention where it was building it.

Apple announced Project Catalyst on Monday. Developers will now be able to easily port their iOS apps to the Mac, which could bring more apps to the Mac’s App Store. (Compared with the iPhone’s App Store, the Mac’s App Store is very lacking.)

Sharing iOS apps with the Mac raises a number of questions about Apple’s app strategy. When using computers, many people rely on websites instead of apps, like, or the websites for news sites that they read.

So what’s the purpose of having iOS apps on the Mac? Apple might argue that apps load more quickly and do a better job at protecting people’s privacy than websites. It may have trouble proving the latter, however, in light of recent news reports that third-party iOS apps leak plenty of data to tracking services.

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