The biggest software and hardware updates that business users (and Applephiles) should know about.
Apple's annual lovefest is officially on.
On Monday, the company kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference, ending weeks of giddy rumors and speculation flying around the Web about just what exactly Apple might unveil.
So what did it unveil in San Francisco?
In short, a lot.
Apple kicked off the conference with a few newsworthy stats: More than 650,000 apps are now available in the iTunes App Store, 225,000 of which are for the iPad. In total, users have downloaded 30 billion apps. After taking its 30% cut of profits from those sales the company has paid out more than $5 billion to developers.
But here's what you really care about... five major hardware and software upgrades:
MacBook Air is now cheaper and faster.
Improvements to the ultra-thin MacBook Air include a 720p camera, new Ivy Bridge processors from Intel, up to 8 GB of memory, and 512 gigabytes of flash storage. The price tag now starts at $999 and $1199 for the 11-inch and 13-inch models, respectively.
MacBook Pro also gets an Ivy Bridge processor.
This update is all about speed: Starting at $1199 for a 13-inch model, the processor will mean 60% faster graphics and up to 1 GB of video memory.
Business travelers, meet the new, next-generation MacBook Pro.
At .71 inches thin, this new device has been called "a hybrid of a Pro and an Air" and the lightest MacBook ever made. (Take note, business travelers.) This MacBook Pro also comes with Apple's Retina Display--the screen found in later iPhones and the new iPad--which means you can expect better visuals.
Like the MacBook Airs, the next-generation MacBook Pro doesn't come with an optical drive. But it will have a SD card reader, HDMI connection, two USB 3/USB 2 ports, an updated version of its MagSafe power adapter connection, and two Thunderbolt connections. And up to 768 gigabytes of hard drive storage. All this awesomeness isn't cheap: It starts at $2199 for the 8BG RAM/256GB base model.
Mountain Lion OS gets a big refresh.
Apple showed off just a handful of the 200 new features it has built into its Mountain Lion operating system. With the upgraded OS you will be able to text from your Mac to other Apple devices and see banner-like alerts, location-based reminders, and Notes--all of which sync across devices.
The company has also made it easier to use iCloud for document storage and retrieval, and to keep your docs current across all your Macs and iOS devices.
While Mountain Lion hasn't integrated Siri (yet), the updated OS does include voice-activated Dictation, which uses the same technology. Dictation will let you speak to type--in any program.
It will be easier to share links, photos, videos, and other files with social media connections because you'll only have to sign in once to a third-party service such as Facebook or Twitter--both of which are integrated with Notification Center, so you'll know when someone interacts with you on either platform.
The Safari browser will include something called Cloud Tabs that keeps track of which pages you have open on your devices, so you can start browsing on one device and pick up on another.
Mountain Lion ships in July and will cost $19.99. Plus, you can install one copy on as many Macs as you own.
iOS 6 is here.
Apple finally unveiled the eagerly anticipated new version of its mobile operating system. Among the changes/features:
Apple will no longer use Google Maps on its mobile devices. Instead it will employ its own app that will make use of local search and Yelp for business pages. If you're in the car a lot, you'll appreciate the traffic and crash information, which is provided via anonymous crowd-sourced data to keep the it fresh. It's also integrated with Siri, so you'll be able to find things like gas stations or know exactly how much longer it will take to get somewhere. The coolest feature might be the 3-D real-time rendered Fly Over view, which lets you zoom in and get a better view.
Improvements to Siri include the much-hoped-for iPad integration, although it won't work on the first-generation model. It gives you the ability to launch apps using the virtual personal assistant, as well as a cool new feature that lets you ask Siri to respond to an incoming missed call at a later point in time. If you want to use Siri to get work done while you drive, Apple said several car manufacturers are building a steering-wheel button that will let you talk to your phone.
And Siri is getting social, too. You'll be able to use the assistant to tweet or update your Facebook status.
And speaking of Facebook... it's now tightly integrated so that events from your social network will appear on your iOS calendar and on your Mac. IOS 6 will also let you create posts from inside the Notifications Center and from Facebook-connected apps like Photos, Safari, and Maps.
If you're keen on what else Apple will be announcing, check back. We'll continue to cover news from the conference that businesses need to know.
CHRISTINA DESMARAIS is an Inc.com contributor who writes about the tech start-up community, covering innovative ideas, news, and trends. Have a tip? Email her at christinadesmarais (at) live (dot) com. @salubriousdish