Apple CEO Tim Cook and a small crowd of his underlings today touted the next iterations of the company's mobile, Mac and wearable operating systems before an exuberant audience of developers and unveiled Apple Music, the company's new streaming service.
Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote focused on software -- the weeklong buffet is for developers, not customers -- and for the second straight year passed on delivering a side order of hardware: A revamped Apple TV, once expected, did not make an appearance.
Instead, Apple hammered on the software and service side, trumpeting improvements in the former and introducing a new service. Early in the event, Cook highlighted native apps on the Apple Watch, which until now has limited those to Apple's own. "We're bringing native apps to the Watch with a new version of the WatchOS," said Cook.
But the most compelling part of the two-and-a-half-hour presentation was strictly for consumers, not developers: Apple Music.
"We do have one more thing," Cook said near the end of the keynote, when he announced the $10-per-month music streaming service, essentially a rebranded and revamped Beats Music, which Apple acquired last year as part of the $3 billion deal for the headphone maker Beats Electronics.
Record producer and label owner Jimmy Iovine, who joined Apple -- as did his partner Dr. Dre -- as part of the Beats purchase, stepped on stage for the first time at a company event to introduce Apple Music. "The music industry is a fragmented mess," Iovine said. "Can we build a bigger and better ecosystem?"
Apple Music will be a single app where a customer's entire music collection will reside, but will also provide access to an on-demand backlist catalog leaning on the human-curated playlists that Beats made popular if not profitable. "Algorithms can't do that emotional task," argued Iovine.
Also part of Apple Music: Beats 1, a global digital radio station, and the ability of any artist, even those without record deals, to participate by offering up content.
The latter, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, was one of the things that may distinguish Apple Music from its streaming competition. "This could be a place where artists stick with," said Dawson, throughout their careers, first as unknown musicians, then known, then, if they're lucky, famous. "Apple Music is unique in that respect."
iTunes purchases and established playlists on iOS and OS X devices will be automatically integrated with Apple Music, said Eddy Cue, who heads Internet software and services, and manages the company's music business. Cue demonstrated the new app, walking through the various components and features of Apple Music, including integration with Siri to call up tracks, genres, tunes from a specific year or those played on a film's soundtrack.
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