Tech Retrospect: WWDC roundup and Amazon's product tease

Apple's developer conference made waves, but not for the right reasons. Also, Amazon teased a product launch, and Nook goes on life support. Here's your week in review.

Happy Friday, dear readers, the end of a week that kicked off with a bang at Apple's WWDC. That's Worldwide Developers Conference, an annual gathering of the best and brightest developers for Apple products (or, at least, those lucky enough to get tickets). As in the past, this was certainly a software-oriented event, but unlike previous years that was taken to a new extreme: no new hardware whatsoever. Not a new Mac Pro, not a new iMac, not even a token MacBook update. Zilch.

But that's OK, because the software updates were quite sweeping and quite good, if in some cases rather inevitable. Take iOS 8, for example -- lots of good new stuff here, including support for third-party keyboards (like my favorite, SwiftKey), app extensibility (so one app can talk to another), and -- get this -- widgets. For Android fans, much of that will be received with a big shrug of the shoulders. For devout iPhone lovers, there's rightfully more excitement involved. Though there will need to be more patience, as the update isn't dropping until the fall.

There was a new version of OS X unveiled as well, dubbed Yosemite. Where previous versions of OS X have been taking a lot of inspiration from iOS, this one simply progresses to work more closely with it. For example, you can now pick up calls from your iPhone on your desktop. If you're working on an iWork document on your desktop your phone will prompt you to pick up where you left off, and so on. Simple, but nice tie-ins. iCloud is also getting a lot more functional, with support for folders and more document types.

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Tim Stevens/CNET

And then there are the Kits, namely HealthKit and HomeKit. The former promises to aggregate all that health information being collected by the growing collection of fitness-oriented devices, while the latter plans to do the same for all the increasingly smart devices installed in your home. All have great potential, but much of that potential remains to be seen, as we got little more than a tease here.

Finally, there was Swift. This is a wholly new programming language that got the developers in the audience quite excited. It portends to blend the best of a variety of different types of programming languages into one snazzy, modern package. I won't take the time to explain the intricacies now (if only because you can read my full take on that over here), but suffice to say that this could open the doors to more developers, and result in better-performing apps.

Amazon teases something new

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Those Amazon phone rumors we've been hearing for what seems like ages? They're finally about to come to fruition. Probably. This week the company invited us to an event for a product unveiling, and by "us" I mean you, actually. The company opened up the invitation process to anybody who wants to come, and didn't specifically send invites to we media-types. Never-minding that, the invite shows a photo of a sliver of a device, which certainly looks like a phone -- quite possibly one with a snazzy 3D, motion-sensing interface if all the rumors are true. In fact, the expectation is for two phones at two differing price points. We'll have the full details of the phone on June 18 -- assuming Amazon lets us in.

Sprint and T-Mobile reportedly close to merging

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What color do you get when you blend yellow and magenta? My color wheel isn't helping me out on that one, but we may find out the answer soon regardless. Bloomberg is reporting that Sprint may be looking to buy its uncarrier cousin T-Mobile for $40 a share, a deal that would be valued somewhere around $50 billion. While the two company's networks are largely incompatible, as are the personalities of their CEOs (the calm and restrained Dan Hesse is a firm counterpoint to T-Mo's vitriolic John Legere), but the US wireless race is rapidly reaching a point where if those two don't join forces they face being squeezed out of the market.

Samsung saves the Nook, for now

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Meet the new Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, a team effort from Samsung and Barnes & Noble. Samsung/Barnes & Noble

With Nook sales plummeting, and Nook content sales following the same downward path, things haven't been looking good for Barnes & Noble's hardware efforts. Samsung is stepping in to help. B&N has already made it known that it would be stepping away from production of Nook tablets, with the next generation basically living on as software running on Samsung devices. The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is the result, a 7-inch slate from Samsung that will hit stores in August. So, B&N gets a Nook device with the quality and modern specs offered by Samsung, while Samsung gets an even longer name for one of its products. Win-win?

RIP PSP

If you've been holding out, waiting for the UMD format to start dominating content sales worldwide, it might be time to put down your tiny optical discs and come out into the light. Sony is officially ending production of the PlayStation Portable. The system, which debuted in Japan way back in late 2004, has already disappeared from US store shelves, and now it's being mothballed in Japan as well at the end of this month. The system has sold somewhere north of 76 million units worldwide. Enjoy one last look at the device's advertising highlight reel above.

 

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