Apple changes gear, enhances car software

Stephen NellisReuters
Apple has unveiled new laptops and enhanced in-car software at its annual developer conference.
Camera IconApple has unveiled new laptops and enhanced in-car software at its annual developer conference. Credit: AP

Apple has announced plans to more deeply integrate its software into the core driving systems of cars, and also rolled out a slew of features for payments and business collaboration alongside unveiling new laptops.

The announcements at Apple's annual developer conference showed a company that was once an outsider working its way firmly into the mainstream of nearly every screen in day-to-day life.

The company whose late 1990s turnaround meant branding itself for rebels and troublemakers spent Monday talking up how to use iPads to collaborate on business presentations and how its software will eventually help display fuel economy on car dashboards.

Notably absent were any hints of Apple's expected next big product, a mixed-reality headset that can overlay digital objects on a view of the real world.

Hopeful fans got only a few tidbits of new augmented-reality technology at a technical talk.

Apple also announced Apply Pay Later, a service that allows users to make interest-free instalment payments.

The business, which will work over the MasterCard network wherever Apple Pay is accepted, puts Apple in direct competition with payment providers like Affirm and PayPal.

But mostly Apple doubled down on existing products.

A MacBook Air laptop was redesigned around a new M2 silicon processor, which it says is 35 per cent faster than the previous M1 chip.

The new laptop will weigh 1.2kg and have a 1080p high-definition camera to provide better images on video calls.

Apple did break with its tradition of not showing its hand about future technology when it presented a new car dashboard the company said would be able to display data from major instruments such as speed, fuel levels and gas mileage.

Apple said it was in talks with manufacturers including Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Honda.

The software connects more deeply into core driving systems than prior versions, which were limited to the vehicle's infotainment displays for playing music and showing maps.

While Apple's car software has been in vehicles since 2014 and is currently available in more than 600 models - even including a few motorcycles - it is largely separate from the vehicle's own operating system.

Vehicles owners must leave the system for even basic functions like adjusting a car's climate controls, a shortcoming the updated version is designed to address.

Polestar, the electric-vehicle maker owned by China's Geely and Volvo Cars, is installing the current version of Apple CarPlay into its Polestar 2 cars through an over-the-air update later this month, Polestar spokesman JP Canton said.

A spokeswoman for Ford, which last year entered a software deal with Google, declined to comment on Apple's announcement.

Apple's iPad also received a revamp to make it easier for users to juggle multiple applications and displays and to collaborate on business-centric documents such as presentations.

The company also previewed an app called Freeform, which will act as a virtual whiteboard that multiple users can tap to share ideas during video meetings over Apple's FaceTime service.

The productivity features put Apple in more direct competition with Microsoft, whose Surface tablet computers are popular among business users.

The tech giant is also adding a tool called Safety Check to turn off access to sensitive information for people in abusive situations.

A new technology called Passkeys, to replace passwords on websites, will also be introduced.

Apple said Passkeys are safer than traditional passwords because they are never stored on a web server. The company said it is working to enable the use of Passkeys with non-Apple devices.

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