Apple wants all of you

NEW YORK

Remember the PC wars? Desktops running Windows dominated the market, but Apple's Macintoshes stubbornly captured small but valuable market share. As a consumer, you had to choose sides. Now Apple is involved in a similar battle with Google, but the narrative here is more titans clashing than David and Goliath. Apple's announcements at its Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, this week showed that the company is not just working to match Google's features, but to go beyond them. You're going to have to choose sides again very soon.

Numerous features Apple announced are aimed squarely at Google services. First there's Spotlight. What used to be a way to search local files on your Mac is now much more in Apple's OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. In Yosemite, Spotlight searches all your local content as always, and when you search for an application, it will also show the files you've recently opened with that application. But Spotlight in Yosemite goes a step further. If you search for a movie title, it shows nearby theaters and show times, plus related content streaming from iTunes. And it has Apple Maps integration if you search for a place. Spotlight is basically mimicking features from Google Now info cards, Gmail search and Google search info cards and presenting them in a different way.

Spotlight is also integrated into the updated Safari browser. You can put a URL into the address bar, or search Google. But the address bar will now also give "Spotlight suggestions." As you begin typing a prominent public figure's name, for example, a brief version of their bio shows up in the Spotlight results. Clicking it takes you to their full Wikipedia page.

These Spotlight features are largely contingent on your participation in the total Apple ecosystem. First of all, you need to have a Mac to run Yosemite. And then you need Yosemite, not an older version of OS X, to get these new Spotlight features. Then you need to use Mail as your email client, iCal as your calendar application, etc., for local data to come up in Spotlight from these applications. And then you need to use Safari to get in-browser Spotlight integration.

Speaking of Safari, Apple's latest browser update clearly has Google's Chrome in its sights. Apple knows that people associate Chrome with heavy, multitab browsing, speed and privacy — so the WWDC keynote was aimed at changing this perception and providing new features to tempt Chrome devotees.

For people doing big projects and/or trying to do a million things at once, Apple has improved Safari's tabbed browsing experience. There's a new "Tab View" that shows a bird's-eye view of all your tabs, with tabs from the same website stacked on top of one another. (It's reminiscent of OS X's Exposé view.) And you can now scroll back and forth through your tabs in a fluid way that doesn't feel jerky or disorienting.

There's a whole world of products out there, but Google and Apple are behind a lot of the ones we pick and choose between every day. You might use Gmail for email, Safari for Web browsing, Google Drive for collaborative office programs and iPhoto for photo processing and organization. But neither company is happy about that fragmentation. They want everyone to use all of their products.

Apple wants all of you 06/03/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 7:16pm]

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