Apple has struck a new alliance with Facebook to integrate the social network into its iPhone, iPad and Mac operating system at the same time as itintroduces a range of new MacBook computers.
The ability to post photos, map locations and links to Facebook directly from Apple devices marks a thawing in what has been seen as a potentially adversarial relationship and will bolster the two companies’ efforts to compete with Google .
Underlining that rivalry, Apple also unveiled a homegrown Maps application, ousting the Google Maps app that has come preloaded on the iPhone since its launch in 2007. Apple’s Maps will include local reviews from Yelp, three-dimensional images of cities and turn-by-turn navigation – a feature that had been more fully developed on Google’s Android than on the iPhone.
“Apple is exploring new ways to find and share things that have nothing to do with Google,” said Benedict Evans of consultancy Enders Analysis. “With Maps, Apple is making a head-on assault on a core Google product, aiming to beat Google on its own turf.”
iPhone and iPad users will also be able to see what apps their Facebook friends are downloading, helping to solve a growing problem of discovering new games and utilities among the 650,000 apps now available on Apple’s App Store.
The new features will be released in the autumn, when a new iPhone is also expected.
At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, Apple revealed improvements to its Siri voice-control system, including the ability to check live sports scores and the forthcoming integration into the steering wheel of cars from several major manufacturers, including Audi, Toyota and Chrysler.
Other new features in iOS 6, its iPhone and iPad software, include the ability to make video calls over a cellular wireless connection and an app that can be used to replace store loyalty cards and transport tickets.
Apple also used the event to announce upgraded capabilities for its MacBook laptop line to combat a second wave of Windows-powered Ultrabooks now going on sale.
There was a new high-end MacBook Pro unveiled, touting a thinner casing and the same “Retina Display” screen used in the latest iPhones and iPad.
“Surfing the web can be like experiencing magazine-like quality,” said Phil Schiller, head of product marketing, describing the new $2,200 machine, which he said was thinner than his finger.
Existing models of other Macbooks were given upgraded Intel processors, extra storage and more memory, with prices lowered by $100. Apple also said a new Mountain Lion version of its operating system would be released in July, boosting its efforts to win new Mac converts ahead of the release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 software.
Apple issued new figures for the App Store suggesting the rate of growth is accelerating, as more iPads and iPhones are sold and the store is extended internationally to 155 countries. More than $5bn in revenue – split 70 per cent for developers and 30 per cent for Apple – has been paid to developers since the download store launched in mid-2008.
Apple unveiled the new technology on Monday to cheers from adoring developers. Ahead of the keynote speech, Apple poked fun at rival Samsung, with its voice control service Siri saying it was looking forward to the South Korean manufacturer’s new fridge.