Apple believes smarter services, devices won't compromise

Apple on Monday said it loud and clear: We value your privacy more than others do.

Amid a slew of announcements ranging from a new music service to a smarter version of Siri that can predict what you want to know, Apple executives continually hit on the point that it takes your personal information seriously.

"If we do look up something on your behalf, such as traffic, it's anonymous," said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software for Apple, at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. "You are in control."

Apple CEO Tim Cook first hammered that theme last week when he said "morality demanded" that people have the right to keep their affairs to themselves. That message is becoming a key differentiator for Apple in its battle against Google and Microsoft, as all three work to become integral to every hour of our lives. Google is especially keen to use your personal information to deliver more relevant ads.

"Apple is drawing the line as to what belongs to customers and Apple vs. everyone else," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC. "It's a sense of trust that Apple is evangelizing, perhaps as a way to set itself apart from other platforms."

But privacy is only half the battle. Apple also wants its services and products to wow us with their high IQs. That heightened intelligence now shows up several ways, from being able to use conversational language with its Siri digital assistant or Spotlight app, to recommending playlists and finding songs delivered to you via Apple Music, its new streaming service. (Even if you don't know the actual song title.) The new capabilities could help Apple match the higher intelligence shown by Microsoft's Cortana and Google Now and its Now On Tap service.

Unlike Microsoft's and Google's services, Apple's smarter assistants handle most of the work within the device or tap into the cloud without Apple's knowledge.

"There's a difference between the device knowing you vs. the company behind the device," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel. "That is very subtle."

iOS 9 knows your mind

A smarter Siri and Spotlight are part of a broader push to make iOS 9 anticipate your needs.

"On iOS 9, we're bringing proactivity throughout the system," Federighi said.

That means, for example, your iPhone could learn to load up on music perfect for your regular morning jog or bring up an audiobook when you get into your car. The new iOS can also immediately add emailed invitations to your calendar app. Every new device that ships with iOS 9 will be able to take advantage of new security features, like two-factor authentication, said Federighi. Two factor authentication combines what you know -- such as a personal identification number -- with what you are, such as a fingerprint.

The next version of OS X, called El Capitan, will also allow users to type in their questions and searches in natural language on Spotlight, which can hunt within the computer for files or online for information like weather and stocks.

Spotlight now "lets you compose your searches in your own words," said Federighi.


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