June 11, 2013
“For a company that was never gone, Apple sure is back.” So tweeted technology entrepreneur Aaron Levie. Spoiler alert: yesterday, at WWDC, Apple won back the majority of our hearts at The App Business. So this review of the Keynote news will err on the side of optimism. Also, it won’t discuss the new *ghasps* app icons.
1. Say hello to Jony Ive, Editor in Chief of Apple
If you hadn’t figured that this is now the Jony Ive show from the pre-Keynote soundtrack (Daft Punk, not Bob Dylan), you sure as heck knew two minutes later after viewing Apple’s opening ‘motivational video’. In it, Ive elegantly framed what innovation means at Apple, reminded us of Apple’s enduring values, and made us all feel a lot better about owning [Apple] products that do a lot less than the competition – all with a few simple words and a beautiful animation. This set up a Keynote that was to be about simplification, unification and integration, and – crucially – the collaboration required to execute this.
2. Apple wants to enable *its developers* to take the ‘moon shots’
Apple has been heftily criticised for its failure to take wild moon shots like Google’s self-driving cars. But Apple’s message was clear yesterday. Apple’s gift to the world isn’t going to be a stream of wild experiments. Apple’s gift to the world is a platform that lets you – the developer community – take the moonshots yourselves, at low cost, and with the chance of incredible reward. That’s why the first demo yesterday wasn’t by Apple. It was by a relatively small studio which had developed *its own* self-driving cars that run on iOS.
3. “Apple can’t innovate my ass!”
“Apple can’t innovate my ass!” declared Apple marketing boss “Big” Phil Schiller as he provided a rare sneak peak of a forthcoming Apple product: the new Mac Pro. This is the meanest looking computer I’ve ever seen and Apple’s unveiling was more akin to the E3 Gaming Conference taking place down the road. And whilst I know I don’t need one, I dang sure know I want one. My Twitter stream was filled with people looking for a justification to buy. Take-out: Apple can still innovate and Apple can still generate irrational lust out of thin air.
4. iOS 7: hardware and software are finally at peace
Forget the icon design hoo-hah. The breakthrough here is how Ive is constructing an experience in which the software and hardware work in perfect harmony. A device on which the customer doesn’t separate the hardware and software experience.
How’s he doing this? Ive and his refreshed UI now consider the phone as a singular object, with a universal law of physics governing its hardware and software. The phone now consists of panes of content, stacked vertically, that can come to the top and into view. He’s added translucency to the panes – not for design flourish – but to give you a sense of location. And he’s added parallax effects so that the UI moves as you move the hardware, in perfect harmony. Even the apps now run to the screen edges to erode that division between hardware and software.
Ive is clearly working towards a vision of a device that is simply a singular pane of glass that really is just all content. This is an awesome vision for app developers on a mission to create delightful engaging experiences.
5. Apps, Apps, Apps
Apple clearly continues to believe that, for now, superior experiences are delivered via native app software rather than via a web browser. And so, Apple introduced new and updated apps for the Mac including Maps, iBooks and Calendar. Each integrates deeply with with Internet services, much in the same way Google does, but not via a browser. I don’t think that Apple is trying to keep people away from Google per se. Rather, Apple, like The App Business, understands that native experiences are superior experiences.
6. The web is a wormhole to Google and PC audiences
There was one big exception to Apple’s native app strategy. Apple introduced a web based experience to patch Apple’s continuing Enterprise weak spot: businesses continue to prefer to do their work via Microsoft Office and Google Docs. And whilst executives on the move might be armed with iPads, they had no way to effortlessly work on docs between their iPad and PC. Well, until now. Yesterday Apple introduced iWork for iCloud enabling iOS users to continue working on iWork documents in the browser, on their PCs.
7. Apple is in the mobile payments game, big time. They’re just not playing ball yet.
Make no mistake, Apple is putting in place all the ingredients necessary to make your iPhone a wallet. Yesterday they announced that they now have more accounts with credit cards on file than any other Internet store; shared data showing that people are more than twice as likely to spend money via iOS devices than Android; and unveiled a new ecom service: iCloud keychain. iCloud Keychain enables iOS devices to securely store and automatically input your credit card details when shopping via your phone.
8. Archaic filing systems are going away
A lot of Mac software was introduced but one significant thing stood out for me: the introduction of a tagging system for folders, like Gmail or Evernote. Why is this so important? Well, Apple are trying to crack a new filing system that throws out folders and branches and lets people quickly find files via just search or tags. And that’s exactly what Apple needs to crack in order to realise mobile devices as true productivity devices that let people find files fast when they don’t have time or the space to browse extensive filing systems. We can expect to see lots of this stuff coming to iOS soon.
9. The final piece of the puzzle: integration with you
Tim Cook talks repeatedly about the integration of hardware, software and services. But there is a fourth unspoken component to this puzzle: you. Yesterday, Apple announced a range of enhancements to improve the phone’s understanding of you and the value of its help. For example, the phone learns which apps you use most and keeps them updated for you (so no more refreshing Instagram); and the phone now knows where your meeting is and marks ‘travel time’ in your calendar (so no more being late). With wearable computing just around the corner cracking integration with you, and indeed the organic-body, is critical for Apple and a final piece in the puzzle.
10. One more thing: “Does it deserve to exist?”
I just want to leave you with one final thought. Apple said a lot at the Keynote. They also said something pretty profound about what not to say, or rather what not to do. I think it was Tim who said this as one of his more casual remarks during the event: “Does it deserve to exist?” Wow. That’s a pretty brutal question. A pretty brutal filter for what gets signed off at Apple. And it’s a pretty sweet question to ensure you focus on the stuff that matters. Ask it the next time you review, curate and cull ideas.
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