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Apple's new iOS 8 offers a whole slew of new upgrades

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June 3, 2014

Introduced yesterday, Apple's new iOS 8 operating system is due to reach the masses sometime this fall, and features a whole slew of new upgrades, but perhaps two of the most interesting items announced at the company's developers conference on Monday are APIs that involve monitoring your vital health signs and controlling your home.

The bodily-functions initiative is enabled by new HealthKit APIs and a corresponding iOS app appropriately called Health.

As Apple senior vice president for software engineering Craig Federighi explained in his keynote presentation, there's no shortage of emerging "Internet of Things" devices that measure various and sundry aspects of your physical state and activities, from pedometers to heart-rate monitors to bathroom scales, and that keep an eye on chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

"But up to now," Federighi said, "the information gathered by those applications lives in silos – you can't get a single comprehensive picture of your health situation, no matter how hard you try."

To be sure, HealthKit aims to end that issue by creating a single repository to which mobile apps can contribute their data, and which either the Health app will then display, or which third-party apps can draw upon.

About those third-party apps, Federighi said that HealthKit is designed to protect your privacy from prying eyes – or prying apps, for that matter.

"You have total control over which applications have access to which part of your healthcare information," he promised.

Apple is also working with the Mayo Clinic – "innovators in healthcare," as Federighi called them – to incorporate HealthKit into doctor-patient relationships.

The Mayo Clinic is developing an app that contains a patient's personalized healthcare parameters so that, for example, if the user checks his or her blood pressure and it's out of the doctor-determined bounds, the app will contact the hospital and notify the patient's doctor so that the doctor can get in touch with the patient for timely personal care.

But Federighi did not mention if notifying a patient's insurance company is going to be part of the deal.

Just as all the healthcare "Internet of Things" currently don't have an API through which they can communicate, the same is true of such emerging devices as "smart" lights, garage door openers, thermostats, door locks, security cameras, etc.

Many of these devices have their own apps, their own protocols, and their own security mechanisms.

"We thought we could bring some rationality to this segment," said Federighi. Working with such home-automation companies as iHome, Schlage, Honeywell, Haier and others, Apple came up with HomeKit APIs, "with a common network protocol that has secured pairing to ensure that only your iPhone can open your garage door or unlock your door."

The HomeKit system can control individual devices, but it also enables you to create what Federighi called "scenes" – grouped actions that can accomplish a set of commands with just one prompt.

"With Siri integration," he said, "you can say something like 'Get ready for bed', and be assured that your garage door is closed, your door is locked, the thermostat is lowered, and your lights are dimmed or turned off completely."

Although Federighi used an iPhone as his example device when discussing both HealthKit and HomeKit, we certainly wouldn't be surprised if the ever-elusive iWatch were to interact with those two APIs soon, if it makes its appearance someday that is.

After all, it has been rumored to have both healthy and homey capabilities. And if the iWatch will appear later this year as has been roundly rumored, the right time to get developers thinking about health monitoring and home automation would be right about now.

In other operating system news

According to market research firms NetMarketShare and StatCounter, Windows' market share has dropped to below 90 percent for the first time since the mid 1990s when the absolute contender was Windows 95.

NetMarketShare calculates that Windows' market share, that's all versions of Windows from XP onward for laptops and desktops, dipped to a 89.96 percent share this month.

For its part, StatCounter is only slightly more pessimistic, reporting a 89.22 percent market share for the same operating systems and the same time period.

To be sure, Apple's OS X operating system still remains far behind, but has nevertheless topped 8 percent for the first time in recent memory. And that's quite a feat.

NetMarketShare places its laptop and desktop market share at 8.16 percent. StatCounter says that OS X has an 8.34 percent market share.

The Mac's overall numbers are nothing that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will lose sleep over any time soon, but the trend lines for both Windows and OS X are certainly something that should catch his attention.

Just in 2008 for example, OS X' market share was a mere 3.75 percent, and in 2000 it was even lower at 2.84 percent.

Oh but before you ask, according to StatCounter's numbers, Linux's overall market share stood at around 0.62 percent as 2008 came to a close, and has risen to a little over 1.75 percent as of March 15.

Of course, while most companies would be extremely happy with a global market share nearing 90 percent, no market domination is eternal, and especially in a market that's changing as rapidly as the PC market is today.

And while Microsoft will likely continue to rule both the desktop and laptop markets for the foreseeable future, the former is getting a bit anemic and the latter is being attacked by millions of tablets, especially the Chromebook lately.

Source: Apple.

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