Tim Cook takes the stage at Apple WWDC to show off a more open Apple

Apple dashed a lot of hopes by not announcing a new gadget at its developers conference Monday, opting instead to reveal widely expected updates to its mobile and desktop operating systems.

But while the company continues to fight off the perception that it's lost its ability to innovate, it did give the public a look at a major culture shift in the company -- a more open Apple.

In keeping with his habits at Apple's past developers conferences, Apple chief executive Tim Cook didn't do much of the talking Monday, opting instead to let other Apple executives do the bulk of the presentation. But Cook's fingerprints were all over the company's main keynote speech, which contained a lot of announcements that indicate that Apple's willing to open up its systems a little to gin up new ideas.

The attendees at the conference -- many among Apple's most dedicated followers -- were buzzing with approval for the company's willingness to grant outside developers more opportunity to access parts of its systems previously off-limits to anyone outside the company. Several of these features, as announced in a keynote speech Monday afternoon, were greeted with raucous whoops and prolonged applause.

Some of the announcements were small, such as the company's decision to allow others to modify how the keyboard works on Apple devices. Others, such as the announcement of new management hubs for health apps and home automation apps, were partnerships of a much larger scale.

Under its late co-founder Steve Jobs, Apple was very insular, often drawing criticism from developers who said that its obsession with perfection sometimes came at the cost of being able to learn from and work with others. Jobs himself once said that he admired arch-rival Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, for his skill in striking smart partnerships.

"I think if Apple could have had a little more of that in its DNA, it would have served it extremely well," Jobs said in a joint interview with Gates in 2007.

Cook, while still a vocal stickler for perfection, certainly seems to agree with that sentiment.  He even recently made a deal -- the $3 billion acquisition of Beats -- that many analysts think would have been unthinkable for Jobs, because Beats has such a strong existing brand.

But as the day's announcements show, Apple seems increasingly happy to provide the bedrock for other companies eager to reach its devoted and widespread fan base.

The announcement of the health and home platforms can also help Apple differentiate itself among developers and consumers as a company that is committed to protecting privacy and security on its devices, said Mike Sax, a developer and chairman of the Association for Competitive Technology and app trade group.

By offering to manage and secure data from disparate services, he said, Apple keeps smaller companies from having to manage regulations dealing with health or other sensitive data -- and bolsters its image as a trusted brand. That, in turn, helps the company sell devices.

"Apple's core business is selling iPhones, iPads and Macs," Sax said, drawing a distinction from companies that rely on advertising for most of their revenue.  "They use their abilities to simplify and create intuitive products to help Apple customers protect privacy for their kids, themselves and their friends."

That's not to say, of course, that Apple is ceding any ground to its top rivals. Microsoft and Google were both targets of jibes from Cook, who noted that Apple users are far more likely than Windows or Android users to happily download the latest software on offer, because they trust it will work.

"You've seen how our operating systems, devices and services work in harmony," Cook said. "This is something only Apple can do."

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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