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Apple's WWDC laundry list leaves us high and dry

From a new name for OS X to a revamped Apple Music, the company lays out a dizzying array of new features and improvements. But few stand out in an event that's all over the place.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET
Now Playing: Watch this: Every major Apple announcement from WWDC 2016
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One of the "big" announcements at WWDC: OS X will be renamed MacOS.

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Steve Jobs probably would've hated this.

The late co-founder was famously obsessed with simplicity. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on Monday was anything but, offering a dizzying list of features.

"The mother of all releases," Apple CEO Tim Cook boasted about the "gigantic" nature of iOS 10, the latest version of its software that powers iPhones and iPads.

But there's something to be said about the less is more approach, with few standout announcements emerging from the two-hour presentation. If last year's WWDC offered just as many tidbits, it had the theme of security and privacy to tie everything together. Today's potpourri mix of news felt like a bit of a scattershot approach, with Apple feeling a bit adrift.

The closest Apple got to a level of consistency is its move to open up critical apps -- Siri, Apple Maps and Messages -- to third-party developer support.

"It expands the number of opportunities for developers in areas of iOS which Apple has previously kept exclusively to itself," Jan Dawson, an analyst for Jackdaw Research, said in a blog post.

Siri's guest appearance

Technology's biggest names, from Google to Microsoft, have thrown down the gauntlet when it comes to their increasingly intelligent digital assistants.

Apple's response: Getting Siri to run on a Mac and power its keyboard?

That Apple spent so little time on Siri is a surprise; having a competent digital assistant has become the feature du jour among tech giants. From Microsoft's Cortana to Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, companies are pouring resources into artificial intelligence and making them more useful and responsive. They don't just provide simple tidbits like the weather; you can hail an Uber cab or speak to them like they were human.

The digital assistant will now work on the Mac and can field tougher questions. For example, you can ask for specific files from within a time frame and then refine that query to find files from a certain sender. Third-party support means you'll be to run apps such as restaurant reservation service OpenTable through Siri.

That's a far cry from the ambitious road map laid out by Google, which vowed to create an assistant that understands more complicated lines of questions and context.

Amazon's Alexa, which lives in the Echo speaker, already hooks into services such as Uber.

iOS takes center stage

Apple devoted much of its time to iOS 10. The announcements were all over the map -- literally at one point with new features and a new look to its Maps application. The next generation of its mobile software would include smarter notifications that include widgets, the ability to "wake" the phone by lifting it up and a cleaner, revamped interface for Apple Music.

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It's an evolution of iOS 9, which hit the market in September with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, including changes that made iPhones and iPads far more able to predict an owner's needs and interests. iOS 9 lets an iPhone learn about someone's habits at particular times of day or in certain locations. For instance, the device could load up music selections ahead of regular morning runs or bring up an audiobook someone is listening to while in the car.

Apple did flex some of its artificial intelligence muscles with changes to its Photos app, which will take advantage of "advanced computer vision" for facial and object detection in photos. While it sounds similar to Google Photos, which works over the cloud, Apple's version uses the processing power in your iPhone to run the searches.

"Its on-stage demos today showed that it's capable of competing effectively (in artificial intelligence and machine learning)," Dawson said.

OS X, I mean MacOS

Apple's main push for its newly renamed MacOS was with Continuity, the feature that allows users to start a task on one device, such as an iPhone, and continue with it on a Mac.

The newest version, called MacOS Sierra, allows you to cut and paste items between devices, an announcement that elicited some gasps from folks in the audience. Apple's new auto-login feature lets you bypass the lock screen and need for a password if you're wearing an Apple Watch.

Apple Pay also nudged forward as a digital wallet, with Apple letting you make online purchases with the service. You can make a purchase on your Mac and verify with TouchID on a nearby iPhone.

WatchOS and TVOS

Apple kicked off the presentation with WatchOS 3, which the company promises will let the Apple Watch load up apps much faster than before. Slow-loading apps have long been an issue with the Watch, and the company said it worked on the response time.

"WatchOS 3 is a giant step forward for you as developers," said Kevin Lynch, vice president of tech at Apple in charge of the Watch.

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Apps will run much faster with WatchOS 3.

CNET

For TVOS, Apple introduced a single sign-on feature that will allow you to bypass the numerous cable subscription authentication screens you encounter whenever you load up a channel on Apple TV. It also unveiled a new remote control app for the iPhone that mimics the new Apple TV remote control.

They're features that are all nice to have but won't have anyone scrambling to buy an Apple TV or Watch. Which sort of sums up the day's announcements.

CNET's Shara Tibken contributed to this report