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Apple's New 'Killer Features': A WWDC Murder Mystery

Who is Apple trying to go after with today's WWDC lineup?

Vjeran Pavic for

Every Apple mega-event is kind of like a game of Clue. There are always a few potential “killer” apps, features or products that could end up murdering a rival product or add-on features from third parties that were designed to fill a hole.

Unlike the board game, however, Cupertino’s “killer” stuff doesn’t always get the job done.

ITunes Radio didn’t kill Pandora, Safari’s Reading List failed to knock off news-reading apps like Pocket, photo-editing apps survived Apple’s native editing tools and, perhaps most famously, the iPad didn’t quite mean the death of the laptop (though it came close).

But maybe the story will end differently for what Apple introduced at today’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Here are some potential “killer” additions to the Apple lineup:

  • Apple Music: The long-awaited music streaming service will go after Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Tidal and others with its new Internet radio service and a $10-per-month subscription fee, plus a $15-per-month family plan. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek didn’t seem too worried.
  • The News app: Confirming a Re/code report, Apple did away with Newsstand and introduced News. It reads cleanly and offers similar features to Flipboard, and a publisher-friendly revenue deal.
  • Siri’s Proactive Assistant update: Apple upgraded Siri with something called Proactive Assistant, which gets it up to speed with apps like Speaktoit and the iOS version of Google Now.
  • The Notes app update: Notes is getting more document editing and formatting functionality, including a list-creation tool that could pressure apps like the recently Microsoft-acquired Wunderlist.
  • Apple Maps’ Transit feature: As some on Twitter pointed out, Apple finally discovered that people use public transportation. Apple Maps will support real-time transit info, maps for regional systems and a whole host of other things that apps like Google Maps, Hopstop, Moovit and NextBus already do.
  • Caller ID for unsaved contacts: Apple’s new feature, which scans your email for unsaved contacts, could start to chip away at Truecaller, the successful app maker that has locked up $80 million in funding.
  • Trackers for reproductive health: In an offhand reference, Apple SVP Craig Federighi mentioned iOS 9 health apps would tap into reproductive health info for women, making competition for the Max Levchin-founded startup, Glow.

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