Apple Friends Facebook, Adds Features to Stay Ahead of Google in Apps

IOS 6 Will Have Its Own Apple Maps, Beefed-up Siri

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Apple unveiled the next version of its mobile software, adding maps and integration with Facebook, to extend its lead over Google in the market for handheld devices and downloadable applications.

Apple's iOS 6 will have more than 200 new features, including turn-by -turn navigation and tools that make it easier to access Facebook from iPhones and iPads, Apple said today. The company also upgraded its MacBook computers, adding faster chips and sharper displays to the high-end Pro model months before competing devices with Microsoft's Windows arrive on store shelves.

CEO Tim Cook is using new software, unveiled at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, to widen Apple's user base and woo developers who can add to a store that has more than 650,000 downloadable games, magazines and productivity tools. The success of Apple's App Store has helped create a market for applications that will reach $58 billion in 2014, according to Gartner.

IOS 6 will include Apple's own map tools, replacing Google Maps and giving Apple access to revenue from businesses that pay to post advertising messages within map-search results. Apple will also work more closely with Facebook, making it easier for mobile-device users to use the social network's profile pages and other tools. Mr. Cook also is beefing up Siri, which lets users control devices with voice commands.

More than 30 billion apps have been downloaded from Apple's store, and developers have received $5 billion from the sales, Apple said today. Apple keep 30% of the revenue raised from app-store sales, and developers get the rest.

Mr. Cook updated the MacBook line as other computer makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. prepare machines that feature the new version of Microsoft's Windows this year. Apple introduced thinner, lighter MacBook Pro computers that boast high-definition screens and sell for $1,199 to $2,199. The MacBook Pros feature more powerful chips from Intel, graphics capabilities from Nvidia Corp. and a port that connects to video from TVs or another source.

The MacBook Pro will boast seven hours of battery life and as much as 768 gigabytes of flash memory, Apple said. New MacBook Airs -- which are thinner and less pricey than Pros -- will sell for $999 to $1,499, Apple said today.

Even as Apple works more closely with Facebook, it will also compete with the owner of the world's most popular social network in sales of apps, as Facebook opened an online bazaar last week. Google's store has more than 500,000 apps, while Microsoft has lined up design firms, recruited interns and sent engineers on an around-the-world road show to line the shelves of its app store. Last year's event, where co-founder Steve Jobs introduced Apple's iCloud service, was the last Apple event he led before he died in October. He had used previous conferences to introduce such products as earlier iPhone models. This year's conference, running June 11-15, will give CEO Tim Cook a chance to outline his vision for why developers should continue to build for Apple rather than competitors, said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group.

The change may help shunt advertising revenue toward Apple and away from Google, said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester who studies the mobile industry. Apple also is adding Baidu Inc.'s search engine as an alternative to Google for iPhone users in China, people familiar with the matter said last week.

The changes highlight Apple's growing rivalry with Google, which has joined companies including Samsungto challenge the iPhone and iPad. Smartphones running Google's Android operating system accounted for 56% of global sales in the first three months of the year, compared with 23% for the iPhone, according to Gartner. Google hosts its own developers conference at the same location in San Francisco June 27-29.

~Bloomberg News~

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