SAN FRANCISCO Apple Monday introduced sweeping changes to the software powering iPhones and iPads, seeking to reignite desire for its products and blunt the advance of Google’s Android mobile operating system.
Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook unveiled a new version of iOS with a simpler user interface that will scrap features such as simulated paper and faux-wood bookshelves. It also redesigns often-used applications such as email, calendar and text messaging.
The revamp of the software behind the devices that generate more than 70 percent of Apple’s sales is a crucial first step toward luring back consumers choosing competing devices. Apple’s iOS accounted for 18 percent of global smartphone shipments in the first quarter, while those running Android made up 74 percent, according to research-firm Gartner Inc.
“IOS 7 is the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of iPhone,” Cook said at Apple’s 24th annual developers conference in San Francisco Monday.
Apple shares had declined 37 percent before Monday from a record in September, a month before Apple’s last major product announcement. The period since the debut of the iPad mini is the longest product drought for Apple in at least a decade.
“Apple has been in a funk, and this is an important event to highlight how they are innovating,” said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays in New York.
With smartphones sharing many
physical traits and technological features, device makers are relying more on software design and services to gain an edge and lure consumers. IPhone sales climbed about 16 percent in the first quarter, according to Gartner, lagging the smartphone market, which grew 43 percent.
Anticipation for the event has been building since Cook shuffled his lieutenants, putting head industrial designer Jonathan Ive in charge of the look and feel of Apple’s software. A longtime confidant of co-founder Steve Jobs and the draftsman behind the iPhone and Mac, Ive has been leading a remake of the iOS mobile software.
Apple also introduced a new version of its Mac operating system called Mavericks, aimed at delivering tighter integration with iPhones and iPads.
The software lets users’ appointments, password, map directions and other information follow them between devices, Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief, said at the company’s 24th annual developers conference in San Francisco Monday.
Mavericks is designed to run on less energy than prior versions, conserving battery life, and has features for using multiple screens, Federighi said.
Apple also unveiled a new Mac Pro desktop computer, with advanced power and memory features for high-end users.
Working with developers
Apple has traditionally previewed new iOS software at the conference and then released it to the public when a new iPhone is introduced later in the year. As Google, Microsoft and Blackberry try to lure engineers to build for their systems, Apple is trying to maintain the loyalty of those who create games and applications.
Cook last month said the company would be giving developers more opportunities to add features that can be integrated in to Apple’s operating systems.
In addition to developers, Apple also needs to add software and services to convince customers, along with wireless carriers that subsidize the iPhone, that the device’s ecosystem is still worth a premium compared with the cost of rival devices, according to Barclays’ Reitzes.
While Apple created the market for mobile touch-screen devices, the company hadn’t made any radical changes to the software running those gadgets since Jobs first pulled the iPhone out of his pocket in 2007.
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