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Music service, mobile software expected from Apple

By Anick Jesdanun

AP Technology Writer

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:01 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2013



NEW YORK » Apple is expected to reveal a digital radio service and changes to the software behind iPhones and iPads today as the company opens its annual conference for software developers.

Apple hasn't said what it will unveil at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. But the major announcements are expected during today's keynote presentation. Last year, Apple used the conference to announce its own mapping service, better integration with social networks and improvements to virtual assistant Siri. It also announced thinner MacBooks with high-resolution screens. The conference runs through Friday.

This year, Apple is expected to show off a simplified look on iPhones and iPads. If the speculation is correct, it would be the most radical design change since the iPhone made its debut in 2007, showing consumers that phones could do much more than make calls and exchange messages.

This week's event comes at an important time for Apple. The company's stock price has fallen amid concerns that another breakthrough product isn't imminent. Although CEO Tim Cook has said people shouldn't expect new products until the fall, Apple is likely to preview how future products will function in its unveiling of new services and features.

Today's highlight is expected to be an updated version of iOS, the software that runs iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. It will be called iOS 7 and will come with new devices expected to go on sale this fall. Owners of recent models such as last fall's iPhone 5 will likely be eligible for free upgrades.

Icons in iOS now have a three-dimensional look that tries to mimic the real-world counterparts of certain apps. For instance, the icon for the Notes app looks like a yellow notepad and the Contacts app is represented by a leather-bound address book. The speculation is that Apple will do away with that theme in iOS 7. Instead, icons will look plain and simple, offering more consistency from app to app. The new design is likely to favor black and white elements rather than splashes of color.

While design modifications could help Apple distinguish its devices from rival phones and tablets, they risk alienating longtime users.

Microsoft's radical makeover of the Windows operating system in October was meant to give the company a stronger presence on tablet computers, but it ended up confusing many people who had become accustomed to using the old operating system on traditional desktops and laptops. IDC blamed Windows 8 for accelerating a decline in PC sales.

Apple riled users of its gadgets last fall when it kicked out a beloved app using Google's mapping service and replaced it with its own Maps app. Travelers complained of misplaced landmarks, overlooked towns and other problems. What was supposed to be a triumph for Apple served to underscore Google's strength in maps. Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a rare public apology and promised improvements.

Apple may use iOS 7 as an opportunity to update its Maps app. Other features in iOS 7 may include new ways to do things through gesture commands.

Apple is also expected to debut a streaming music service dubbed iRadio.

Apple is a pioneer in digital music sales. The debut of its iTunes music store in 2003 gave people an easy, legal way to obtain music for their iPods. Apple persuaded the major recording companies to join its efforts as a way to thwart online piracy. What started with a catalog of about 200,000 songs has grown to tens of millions today. The iTunes store is now the leading U.S. retailer of music.

With iTunes, people buy songs or albums to download to computers, phones and tablets. But streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify have emerged as popular alternatives for listening to music. Pandora relies on its users being connected to the Internet at all times and plays songs at random within certain genres for free. The service is supported by advertising. It is the most similar service to the one Apple is expected to announce today The difference is that Apple is expected to feature a seamless way for listeners to purchase songs through iTunes.

The announcement could further cement Apple as a leader in digital music and cut into Pandora's status as the most-listened-to Internet radio service.

But Apple faces a new type of competition that it didn't have when it debuted iTunes. Rival Google Inc. started an on-demand subscription music service called All Access last month. The service joins Spotify, Rhapsody and others that give subscribers the ability to pick and choose specific songs and albums from a catalog of millions for playback on computers, tablets and smartphones. Such services allow songs to be saved on mobile devices for playback outside of Internet connectivity as long as the user keeps paying a monthly fee — usually $10 a month in the U.S.

Apple Inc. faces more competition on phones, too. Phones running Google Inc.'s Android system have surpassed iPhones in sales. In addition, new phones running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Phone 8 system and Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry 10 have started going on sale in recent months.

AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this story.







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nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
I am a really big fan of Spotify as they allow you to actually choose the music that you want to hear down to the album. Their stated claim is that the artists are paid whenever you listen to their music. Of course, there are advertisements to pay the artists and to pay for their costs. But they are no worse than the on-air radio stations, some of which play a lot of commercials. You can also go on their paid subscription in order to remove the commercials. Pandora, on the other hand, only plays what they want to play based on what they think you will like. Further, they limit the amount of times that you may fast forward to another track. I was finding that I wanted to turn off the station as their selections of what they think I would like were simply wrong and they forced you to listen to the track. Spotify would be wise to team up with a Bluray manufacturer to get the exposure that they need. Sony has teamed up with Pandora. And many other companies have done that, too. Until Spotify modifies their strategy they will always not have the exposure or brand recognition of Pandora which is actually the inferior product. Spotify allows you to listen to the actual album and fast forward as often as you like. I do hope that Spotify will make their product available for use as a free app on a Blueray player sometime in the future. If you haven't tried Spotify on your PC, you are missing out. It is one of the best free apps available in my opinion. Going to the article, Apple's iRadio will be of much interest but I suspect that their service will cost a monthly fee. And even at that I would suspect commercials.
on June 10,2013 | 08:34AM
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