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Apple announces an iMac Pro update and iOS 11

Attendees wait for the start of the 2017 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 5, 2017. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple kicked off its annual three-day developer conference in San Jose with a dystopian look at the future. Really.

A new Apple ad showed what the world could look like without apps, triggered after a hapless Apple employee unplugged something in a server room. Hipsters panic trying to read paper maps, cars pile up in the roads and a girl hands out printed selfies. An “app” black market sets up shop in a back alley, complete with a physical Tinder and booth for crushing real candy.

The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is usually where Apple previews its software updates. Tim Cook took the stage on Monday and will be joined on stage by other Apple executives and possibly the disembodied voice of design chief Jony Ive, as is tradition.

“I’m dispensing with the updates other than to say Apple’s doing great,” said Cook.

Apple TV adds Amazon

After touting the work of Apple’s developers, Cook announced that Amazon is coming to Apple TV with its Prime Video app. Cook said Apple was pleased about the partnership, and mentioned some original Amazon content like Transparent.

The announcement marks a detente of sorts between the two companies, which have been locked in a streaming rivalry for years. In 2015, Amazon went so far as to pull listings for the Apple TV from its online store.

watchOS

Apple previewed the next version of watchOS 4, its operating system for the Apple Watch. There are new watch faces. A Siri face will show more info from the assistant, like flight times, controls for smart home devices and third-party notifications. A kaleidoscope face shows trippy animations, and new Toy Story character watch faces let Woody tell you the time.

The watch can communicate with some gym equipment to share data between the two — like your heart rate or the treadmill’s incline. Starting in the fall, Apple Watch compatible equipment will start coming to gyms from companies like Cybex, Schwinn and Matrix.

If you hit workout goals, you’ll now get fancier animations to give you a greater sense of satisfaction. There are new workout updates, like one that can tell when you’re swimming and reach the end of the lane. The free OS upgrade will be available in the fall.

The Mac

Apple is pushing the Mac as a machine that’s made for virtual reality, with new hardware and software updates built for VR.

The company is releasing a new version of its operating system for Macs. Coming this fall, macOS will be called High Sierra.

The OS is getting VR support, says Craig Federighi, including support for Unity, Unreal and Metal for VR. Expect more details later during the event.

There are number of small changes in High Sierra. Safari is adding autoplay blocking, so loud videos don’t start playing without your approval. The browser is also adding “intelligent” tracking prevention in order to cut down on ads that follow you around the Internet.

The Photos app is adding new filters, and Apple says it has improved the face detection feature. Categories, faces and favorites will be synchronized across devices.

Apple is porting its Apple File System to macOS. It’s a mostly under-the-hood change, but users will notice a difference. For example, duplicating a file will be nearly instant. Video compression will be higher quality, according to Apple.

“It’s time for a more modern file system,” said Federighi.

An iMac for pros

Apple really wants to hold on to its professional users. Its Mac Pro hasn’t been updated since 2013, and Apple says the next version will be available some time next year. To bridge the gap, it’s built a superpowered version of its all-in-one iMac that will be available in December.

The iMac Pro is a matte gray 27-inch computer that Apple says is the most powerful Mac it’s ever made. Starting at $4,999 for the basic configuration, the 5K machine will come with an 8-core, 10-core or 18-core Xeon processors. It can have up to 22 teraflops of graphics power. Apple says the machine is fast enough for real-time 3D rendering, code compiling and designing virtual reality content.

“That iMac Pro really is bad ass,” said Cook.

Every Mac gets an update

Apple’s other PCs are all getting speed and performance updates. iMac’s are getting across-the-board speed improvements and more storage. They’ll also include higher performance graphics chips to support VR. The company had Industrial Light and Magic’s John Knoll on stage for a live demo of a Vive virtual reality Star Wars game using a Mac.

MacBook and MacBook Pros are getting updates as well. The company is also adding a cheaper $1,300 MacBook Pro option. The neglected MacBook Air is not dead, but it only got one brief mention. It will have a bump in megahertz. That’s it.

iOS 11

In iOS 11, Apple’s forthcoming mobile operating system, the company is introducing peer-to-peer payments through iMessage. Apple is taking on money-sharing apps like Venmo and Square Cash, as you’ll be able to use Apple Pay to send friends money via chat.

Siri also got an update — the virtual assistant can translate English into five different languages. You’ll be able to ask Siri, “How do you say this in Chinese?” and it will speak it. Languages include Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish, with more coming in the future.

Apple is introducing a number of effects into the Live Photos feature. It will use machine learning to turn your Live Photos into shareable looping images and select individual clips from the photo.

It’s also adding a feature to block notifications while the phone is in Car Play. You won’t get any notifications while in the car, and if you look at your phone, you’ll see an alert reminding you that you won’t receive notifications while on the road. It will automatically send a text message to people who text you to let them know you’ll text them back later.

Apple devices will support multi-room audio, so you can rock out to music on speakers spread out around your house.

Apple is resigning the App Store, the first major overhaul in its nine years. The store’s 500 million weekly users will see new tabs highlighting curated collections and article-like stories made by Apple, not just developers. A Today section will show off apps the company wants to highlight, a Games tab will do the same for games and also display in-app purchases.

Still to come

Apple is still expected to announce an Amazon rival: a Siri smart speaker.

Amazon’s Echo speaker has been a sleeper hit. The device, a black column with an always-listening microphone, is powered by a Siri-like assistant named Alexa. Part of its success has been due to Amazon’s willingness to let external developers create “skills” for the assistant. Apple, by contrast, has been stubborn about letting outsiders tap the power of Siri, and the company has fallen behind as a result.

Apple isn’t just going after Amazon. Google recently launched its own Echo imitation, the Google Home, powered by the still-nameless Google Assistant. Microsoft is partnering with third-party speaker manufacturers to bring its own assistant, Cortana, to homes.