Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage in Cupertino, California, today for the company’s next big announcement, which everyone expected would be the long-awaited streaming music service from the company that brought you the iPod and iTunes store.
After two hours, he finally did. "You know we love music and music is such an important part of our lives and our culture," he said by way of introducing a slick video showcasing the century-plus evolution of music from wax cylinders to, yes, iPods and iTunes.
And then came the big reveal: AppleMusic will allow users to search and stream the millions of songs on iTunes, as well as listen to the world's first 24/7 worldwide radio station, Beats1, which will be broadcast from New York, Los Angeles and London and feature interviews, news and guest hosts. The service will also allow unsigned and established artists to use the new Connect feature to upload songs, remixes, demos, mixtapes, photos and soundbites and anything else they want to make a deeper relationship with fans.
Surprise guest Drake came out to talk about Connect and explain how he plans to use it. "It's right from where you are in your city in front of your computer," the rapper said of the service, which he described as the next step in the evolution of the more labor-intensive way he's used to do things. "I can't wait to incorporate AppleMusic and especially Connect into what I do next."
With the announcement, Apple is finally ready to take on the Rhapsody and Spotifys of the world after its $3 billion purchase last year of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine's Beats brand, including the Beats Music service.
The service will roll out on June 30 and include a free three-month membership, after which it will cost $9.99 per month and a family plan for up to six family members for $14.99 a month. It will also be made available on Android in the fall.
"The only song as important as the one you are listening to that moment is the one that follows it," said Iovine in describing how AppleMusic will rely on handpicked experts to curate playlists and recommendations. "You need a human touch, the right song and the right playlist at the right moment." Users can also make their own artwork for playlists and move songs around in the lists by swiping up and down.
Siri will also be in on the action by taking requests such as, "play the song from 'Selma'" if you want to hear John Legend and Common's "Glory" or specific hits from a certain year.
The event opened with a skit featuring Bill Hader walking his way to the stage and getting into it with an Angry Bird character, Tinder-swiping live humans, getting into an elevator with a bunch of Cook impersonators (and Cook) and running into a man on fire in a bit reminiscent of an awards show opening montage. Oh, and there was a dance number featuring Danny Pudi from "Community."
Other details from Monday's event:
OSX Adds Side-By-Side Windows
Federighi said the new version of OSX Yosemite -- which he said has the fastest adoption rate of any operation system ever -- will be known as El Capitan. Among the updates: Spotlight will be more responsive and help you find even personal messages more easily (including emails you've ignored), the cursor will be blown up when you log in so you can see it more easily and you will now be able to "pin" sites so that the ones you use most often are always available and up-to-date.
Most importantly, you can tap on your touchpad to instantly mute music, or drop down to find out which window it's coming from so you can turn it off and work on two windows side-by-side at the same time.
Siri Getting Smarter
Siri will now be able to give you reminders about events and take invitations from email and put them on your calendar -- and figure out what that strange phone number is you just got a call from by scanning your inbox. When you plug in your headphones or connect to your car, the iPhone will also immediately suggest a recent playlist or audiobook.
Siri can even suggest music or activities based on the time of day and your typical patterns of exercise or work and feed you information based on your location, or take information about events and meetings out of email and automatically add them to your calendar.
There will also be a new built-in app called News that will customize a feed for you based on interests, which will come up in a beautiful customized format with rich graphics, videos and animations. The iOS 9 download (available in public beta in July and with a free upgrade for everyone in the fall) will also need one-fourth of the space needed for an update, which is good news for 16GB phone owners.
iPad Getting Closer To Being A Computer
iOS9 will also make your iPad one step closer to being a fully functional computer, with split-screen abilities that let you move two different apps at the same time on the screen.
The QuickType keyboard can also turn the keyboard into a trackpad with a two-finger swipe and a new function that creates picture-in-picture so you can keep watching a video while looking up information about it or checking email.
Native Apps Coming To Apple Watch
Cook said Apple would now allow developers to work with the new WatchOS to make new and better apps for the Watch. "We believe in technology design for the wrist," Cook said.
Some new functions: the Watch will be able to reply to email directly using emoji and dictation, use multiple colors for your sketches and share your Activity and Workout data on Facebook and Twitter.
We'll update you on additional details as they are available.