How Apple spent yesterday playing ‘catch up’

Apple announced a host of new features for its mobile and Mac operating systems at its developers conference on Monday, but users might have the feeling that they've seen it all before with with analysts suggesting the company is playing "catch-up".

"I think catch-up is probably the right phrase to use," Peter Richardson, research direction at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC by phone.

"Apple has been - for all of its brilliance in hardware - not particularly good in software and services and has rested on its laurels a lot."

Take News, an app which combines articles from nearly 20 publishers including the New York Times and ESPN and lays them out in a magazine-style form. The articles will be displayed in-app when it launches with iOS 9 this Fall for the iPhone and iPad. The app will also recommend stories based on what you've previously read.

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during Apple WWDC on June 8, 2015, in San Francisco.
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But Apple's offering comes just weeks after Facebook launched Instant Articles – a service which allows publishers to create in-app stories. Another news aggregation app is Flipboard and its CEO, Mike McCue, took the opportunity of Apple's launch to take a dig at the company in a tweet.


Apple's own map app has been a magnet for criticism for users of its devices. To remedy this, the Cupertino, CA-based company added a feature called Transit which shows public transport directions, much like Google Maps does already.

"The maps issue just underlined the fact that Apple isn't great at these software and service area," Richardson said.

Apple also added a multi-tasking feature to its iPad which allows users to work on two apps simultaneously and carry on a video call while using an app. The split screen feature is something Microsoft introduced in 2012 with Windows 8 and is used on the company's Surface tablets.

The big set piece for the iPhone maker was the unveiling of Apple Music, its music streaming service. But its competitors Spotify and Rdio both poked fun at it, suggesting it was late to the party.

Apple music: Just catching up on competitors?

And finally, the iPhone maker made a big push into so-called machine learning by bolstering the abilities of Siri. Apple's new personal assistant will be released with iOS 9 in the Fall and will have features such as recommending apps that could be opened at certain times of day depending on usage patterns. Other features include telling you when to leave for an appointment, taking into account traffic conditions. The improved Siri is Apple's attempt to compete with Google Now and Microsoft's own personal assistant Cortana.

But analysts add that Apple's announcements should not be seen in such a negative light, who said the new features were an attempt to solidify the company's foundations.

"The work that went into the releases last night was about making the foundations as solid as possible and really strengthening things," Martin Garner, senior vice president at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone.

"It's an incremental release following a really big update last time round (with the Apple Watch). So we weren't' surprised they weren't revealing lots of brand new things."

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