Apple adds Group Facetime, time-curbs, to iOS 12

PLUS: Live sports and live news coming to Apple TV; Microsoft steals Apple's thunder by buying GitHub in a $US9b deal; Facebook overshares with phone makers.

The software that runs iPhones and iPads will get a host of new features later this year, including the ability to have more than two people in a Facetime video chat.

Apple says iOS 12, which will allow for Facetime chats involving up to 32 people, is catching up with rival products made by Microsoft's Skype division (which supports up to 25 video chatters) and Google (also 25), among others. 

The feature was previewed at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), held this year in San Jose. 

iOS 12 will also feature Screen Time, a parental control feature that will allow parents to dictate how many minutes their kids spend on various apps.

The software update will also make it easier to turn off home screen notifications, a feature that's become increasingly popular with app makers and increasingly annoying to harrassed users. And Siri gains the ability to turn off notifications itself for a particular app if it notices you're never acting on them.

iOS 12 also adds an enhanced Do Not Disturb feature that is time or location-specific — so you can, say, set your device to always go on Do Not Disturb when you're a meeting room or classroom, or at your favourite restaurant.

Apple says the update will be available in the fall, or what will be Spring in these parts.

The company also announced plans to add live sport and news to its Apple TV platform – although by partnering with established pay-TV providers and essentially offering them a new channel of distribution, rather than going into competition with them.

Facebook overshares
WWDC was partly overshadowed by the revelation that Facebook shared huge amounts of data about a user, and their friends, with phone makers like Apple and Samsung without explicit consent – and that it continued the practice after its official clampdown on third-party developers who accessed friends' data without a user (or the friends') knowledge.

Apple used WWDC to pledge that iOS 12 would turn off Facebook’s ability to track users across the web through like buttons and comment feeds. However, it was not clear whether this feature would be enabled by default.

Microsoft buys GitHub
While WWDC drew several oohs and ahhs as its fans followed the stream, a mischievously timed market announcement from Redmond stole its thunder.

Microsoft says it has entered an agreement to buy startup GitHub for $US7.5 billion in stock.

GitHub was founded as a way for software developers to share and collaborate on coding tools and is an essential platform for many open-source programmers

Microsoft was hostile to open source (free, community-developed) software in the past but has recently been opening up. This is another big step as Microsoft tries to get onside with developers of cloud software.

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