Apple unveils new, thin MacBook Pro, iOS 6, and more OS X features

Software focus is on more commonality across iOS and OS X, as well as moving Siri into cars

To an audience of several thousand OS X and iOS developers, Apple executives today unveiled several expected products at its WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) in San Francisco: The iOS 6 mobile operating system used in the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch; additional features for the previously announced OS X Mountain Lion; and both an all-new thin MacBook Pro design and hardware upgrades to its existing MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptop lines.

But the company also announced a few surprises, such as an effort to put its Siri voice-based assistant technology in cars.

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iOS 6: Greater cross-platform integration and expanded Siri services

Apple revealed a slew of new capabilities for iOS; the iOS 6 update is expected to ship this fall. It will run on the iPad 2 and later, the iPhone 3G  S and later, and the fourth-generation iPod Touch. Registered developers can download the beta software today.

Among its new capabilities are an updated Phone app that lets you tag incoming calls for follow-up, such as for when you are in a meeting. Apple is also unifying the Apple ID across OS X and iOS devices so you can answer a call on any device you happen to have handy.

As widely expected, Apple has replaced its Google-based Maps app and service with one of its own creation; Apple did its own cartography work and took its own images for on-the-ground photos. The Siri-enabled app's services include local business search, traffic conditions, 3D flyover and on-the-street views of cities, and turn-by-turn navigation that will update the suggested route based on traffic conditions.

And Apple's FaceTime videoconferencing service for iOS and OS X devices will now work via cellular connections on iOS devices. iOS 6 is also adopting the "do not disturb" capability from OS X Mountain Lion that lets you turn off alert notifications until you want to see them; all notifications received during that quiet period remain available in the Notification Center. iOS 6 lets you schedule the do-not-disturb periods, such as for recurring meetings. Safari in iOS 6 can upload photos as well as support the iCloud-synced tabs capability introduced in OS X Mountain Lion. And Photos can now share photos with other iOS uses. The Mail app gains the ability to open password-protected Office documents, and it adopts the VIP-tagging capability introduced in OS X Mountain Lion.

Apple is addressing one long-standing criticism of iOS by enabling individual mail signatures per account; iOS has always used one signature for all accounts. Other new capabilities include Chinese search and social network integration, as Apple is also doing in OS X Mountain Lion. Apple also says it is working with manufacturers to iPhone-enable hearing aids.

New apps include Passbook, which lets you store all electronic boarding passes and other tickets from multiple airlines, rail systems, hotels, and entertainment venues in one location. The app even displays your ticket on the lock screen when you arrive at the airport or theater.

The Siri voice-based personal assistant in the iPhone 4S is being made available for the third-generation iPad. For both the iPad and iPhone 4S, it is also being updated to support more contexts, such as sports, dining, and movie information. Also new is support for launching apps by voice command, for the Open Table restaurant reservations service's iOS app, and for Facebook, including an API that third-party apps can use to work with Facebook via Siri.

On the automobile front, Apple is working with Audi, BMW, Chysler, General Motors, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota to Siri-enable their cars, so you can control the iPhone or iPad via voice through the car's stereo system.

A few surprises for OS X Mountain Lion

Apple also revealed the ship date for OS X Mountain Lion, the update to OS X Lion that it announced in February; it will ship in July for $20. As previously revealed, it supports direct access to iCloud storage for apps sold via the Mac App Store, a VIP-tagging capability in Mail for people whose email you want quick access to, a standardized Share menu for applications, iCloud-synced tabs and unified address and search bar in Safari, and the adoption of iOS's Notification Center, AirPlay screen mirroring to an Apple TV, and its Notes, Messages, and Reminders apps.

New features revealed today are universal dictation (based on the dictation feature that debuted in the third-generation iPad), a redesigned Dock, support for links and images in the Notes app, a new way to browse tabs in Safari visually, and the ability to back up and update software while asleep that apple calls Power Nap.

Apple's iWork suite will also be updated to support iCloud storage.

Thin new MacBook Pro unveiled, with updates to other MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs

As widely expected, Apple today announced a redesigned MacBook Pro that is 0.71 inches thin -- about as thin as the MacBook Air's thickest portion -- that features a Retina display similar to that in the third-gen iPad, with more than 5 million pixels (for 220ppi pixel density), and a weight of 4.5 pounds for the 13-inch model. The new MacBook Pro uses Intel's new "Ivy Bridge" Core i5 and i7 processors, as well as a new USB port that supports both the 3.0 and 2.0 standards. (PCs that provide USB 3.0 use a separate port for each standard.) Its SSD drive can be as large as 768GB; there is no magnetic hard drive available. Apple has also used the low-power Bluetooth 4 technology in the new MacBook Pro, in addition to 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Gone are the Ethernet and FireWire ports; Apple now sells dongle adapters for these, and you can use an Apple Thunderbolt Display as well to gain these ports. The new MacBook Pro also uses a new, thinner power connector design and provides a second Thunderbolt port. Prices start at $2,199.

To take advantage of all those pixels, Apple is updating its iPhoto and Aperture photo-editing apps and its Final Cut Pro X video editing software, and Adobe will update Photoshop and AutoCAD will update its drafting software as well.

Apple also unveiled today its updated "regular" MacBook Pro series to use the same processors and 3.0/2.0 USB port. The new 13- and 15-inch models cost the same as the previous generation (starting at $1199) and are otherwise essentially the same. (Apple did not mention the 17-inch model; that unit has been removed from Apple's online store.) Likewise, Apple has updated the thin-and-light MacBook Air lineup to use the new Core processors, which it says will boost both computational and graphics performance. The Airs can also now be outfitted with SSD drives with storage of up to 512GB, up from 256GB in previous models. They too come with the dual 3.0/2.0 USB ports. Available today, pricing starts at $999, which is $100 less than for the previous generation.

Not announced as expected today was a new version of Apple's Mac Pro power-user desktop line.

This article, "Apple unveils new, thin MacBook Pro, iOS 6, and more OS X features," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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