Today: Apple (AAPL) targets Google (GOOG) with part of its announcements at annual World Wide Developers Conference. Also: Tech stocks fall hard, as Apple can't help its own stock, nor Facebook nor Yelp while Wall Street descends.
Apple announces updates to laptop line, operating systems
Apple kicked off its 23rd Worldwide Developers Conference with a two-hour keynote address Monday that included updates to many of the company's core offerings. The announcements centered on the Cupertino tech giant's line of notebook computers and two major operating systems, MacOS and iOS.
-- Laptops: Apple is upgrading its standard MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines while dropping the price by about $100. The machines will run with new processors from Intel's (INTC) Ivy Bridge series and Nvidia graphic chips, which should make graphics load up to 60 percent faster, according to the presenter for this portion, Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing.
The biggest news from the notebooks presentation was a new MacBook model that will include the retina display that drew rave reviews when it premiered on the newest generation of iPads. Schiller said it was the "world's highest resolution notebook display," and also pushed the incredible thinness of the laptop, at 0.7 inches thick. The high-end laptop starts at $2,200 and is immediately available to consumers.
-- Mountain Lion: The newest version of the Macintosh operating system will be released next month and users can upgrade for $20, a large discount from previous Apple upgrades. Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, hyped integration with iCloud, Apple's nascent remote-storage offering, which will be present with optimized apps, the notification center, and even in Apple's Web browser, Safari.
The operating system will also offer dictation services, which the company said will be very handy for Twitter; a PowerNap app that will allow Macs to update while they're asleep; Airplay Mirroring, which will allow for simpler transfer from a Mac's display Mac to a user's television screen through Apple TV; and the popular iOS offering GameCenter will transition to the Mac line, allowing cross-platform gaming from mobile devices to Apple's personal computers. New features for native Chinese speakers were also announced, highlighting Apple's attempt to push deeper into the world's most populous country.
-- iOS: The newest version of Apple's mobile operating system created perhaps the most newsworthy portion of the keynote, as nearly the entire presentation could be seen as a gauntlet thrown down at the feet of Google and its Android mobile operating system. The head of Apple's iOS unit, Scott Forstall, wasted no time in pointing out that 80 percent of iOS users were running the latest version of iOS, while only 7 percent of Android users were up-to-date on a product that updated at the same time.
From there, Forstall proceeded to unleash a barrage of updates that will appear in iOS 6. Most notable: Facebook and Yelp will be deeply integrated in the new version of iOS 6, as Siri will interact with the popular Silicon Valley offerings as well as other apps, and users' accounts will be handled at the system level, so no separate logins are required; the transition of Facetime, Apple's video-chatting app, to cellular networks instead of solely Wi-Fi; Photo Streams that can be shared among users; and Passbook, an app that will hold on to tickets for events or travel, as well as gift certificates, a possible precursor to a Google Wallet-like payment service.
In the biggest challenge to Google, Apple announced a new Maps application that will become the native mapping software on its mobile devices, replacing Google Maps. Apple's maps software will feature turn-by-turn navigation, use traffic information to reroute users around heavy congestion, offer listings for businesses that include integration with Yelp, and three-dimensional photographic renderings with a service called Flyover.
Analysts generally believed Apple's announcements strengthened it in relation to Google, but that none of them were game-changers, as many outside observers had hoped for an update on where Apple is headed in regards to a big advancement in Apple TV.
"We believe the biggest take-away is that Apple is strengthening not only the interaction within its own ecosystem, but also creating a consortium of powerful web partners to offer an experience that largely falls outside of Google's walls," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote, adding that he believes the Siri integration with apps and other services and Apple's partnerships with Yelp and Facebook will "marginalize Google's presence on the iPhone."
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote that "there are plenty of new products and updates for both developers and consumers to get excited about," but Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdery disagreed, calling the updates a "nice refresh, but no breakthroughs."
"Is this the best we can get from Apple, post-Steve Jobs?" he asked.
Tech stocks take a beating, making Facebook's small loss look good
While Facebook and Yelp received prime time on Apple's big stage, none of the companies managed to capitalize on the notoriety on Wall Street, though Facebook declined only slightly in the face of swift negative movement for tech stocks.
Apple declined 1.6 percent on the day to close at $571.17, though that was a far better performance than the company it targeted through much of its iOS presentation. Google stock fell 2.1 percent even as it struck a deal to close off one part of the large lawsuit it faces for its Google Books project.
Yelp, which enjoyed a Wall Street renaissance last week after suffering in the wake of Facebook's IPO, fell 4 percent Monday. Facebook, meanwhile, fell 0.4 percent even as it "acqhired" another round of employees; However, the Menlo Park company's performance could be seen as a victory on a trading day in which the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index descended 1.7 percent.
In fact, Facebook's stock performed much better than its partner, Zynga -- the San Francisco-based online-gaming company fell hard Monday, declining 8.3 percent to an all-time low closing price of $5.55. Other Silicon Valley stocks that dove Monday included San Francisco big-data company Splunk, down 6.3 percent; Redwood City video games company Electronic Arts (ERTS), which fell 4.8 percent; Los Gatos video-on-demand firm Netflix (NFLX), which declined 4 percent; and Palo Alto tech giant Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which fell 3.5 percent.
One company that did manage to gain from Apple's announcements was Nvidia, which rose 1.2 percent as Apple announced the use of its new graphics chips at the same time that an analyst said the Santa Clara company is also in a leading position with Windows-based tablets.
Spanish bailout deal, Greek elections weigh on Wall Street
Tech stocks fell hard on Monday, but the rest of Wall Street failed to fare much better, as all three major U.S. stock indexes declined. While the Nasdaq suffered the most, the Standard & Poor's 500 was right behind with a loss of 1.3 percent and the Dow Jones declined 1.1 percent.
Analysts said that a $125 billion bailout for Spanish banks, announced over the weekend, was seen as too light a move given the depth of the country's banking problems, causing them to sell on fears that a lack of more action could cause calamity in the European economy.
"The Spanish deal is another Band-Aid," Matt McCormick, a fund manager at Bahl & Gaynor, told Bloomberg News. "Many investors are viewing this with skepticism. The problem is not going to be fixed by this amount. It's not a solution, and people know the difference. Expect more volatility, not less."
There is little hope for a rally this week, as investors are anxious about the Greek elections this coming weekend, which could cause even more confusion about what will happen in Europe's most trouble economy.
The Greek election "stirs in an added level of uncertainty until clarity from this weekend," Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, told TheStreet..com
Silicon Valley tech stocks
Up: Jive, Nvidia
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 48.69, or 1.7 percent, to 2,809.73
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 142.97, or 1.14 percent, to 12,411.23
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 16.73, or 1.26 percent, to 1,308.93
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.