Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) concluded this week in San Francisco California. Here are five notable takeaways from this year’s event.
1. Apple Makes its Software More Accessible
Unlike its Silicon Valley neighbors, Apple is notorious for keeping its software close to the vest. However, several key announcements this week hint at a strategic shift. The company announced on Monday that it will open source the code base for Swift, its programming language for iOS, OS X and watchOS. The code will include the Swift compiler and standard library. Apple will also open up CloudKit, its framework for incorporating cloud components into iOS apps, via a JSON API. Making these tools more widely available means that Apple’s core technology can live outside of its hardware products. For example, a developer may use Swift to write an iOS app, a web server and even, gulp, an Android app.
Additionally, the company is going to let anyone with an Apple ID (or iTunes account) use Xcode to build an app and put it on their phone. This is a departure from the previous $99 annual fee. This should encourage more schools to incorporate iOS development into their curriculum.
2. Apple Watch Becomes Independent
The Apple Watch is now able to stand on its own. It uses Wi-Fi to make network requests and run apps natively, meaning you no longer need to keep your phone in your pocket. I’ve been using the Apple Watch for a couple of weeks now, and there are several use cases for which I find it beneficial: 1) viewing a notification and making a quick decision on its importance and 2) using the wrist to complete simple tasks. This all starts to feel like magic when you take action on a Watch notification and it triggers an event in a separate device. For example, I can lock and unlock my laptop from the tap of a button on my wrist. This presents opportunity for companies to automate basic tasks that require a simple “yes” or “no” input from the user.
3. Apple Music Debuts...Past Due
The headlines are probably going to read, "Apple Finally Joins the Streaming Music Game," and they would be right. Apple Music, the company’s new streaming service, will be available on June 30th and will cost $9.99 a month following a free, three month trial. A family plan will be available for $14.99. Spotify has used the time since Apple acquired Beats Music to take the vast majority of market share. Apple is counting on Jimmy Iovine, a veteran music industry exec, to help them better understand what the market wants, including access to artist exclusives as a main feature that most people aren’t clamoring for. I don’t see this boding well for them as the music industry doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to market needs (see Napster vs. CDs, iTunes vs. DRM).
4. HomeKit is Coming, But Slowly
No major changes happening on the HomeKit front. Apple did announce a new protocol that will allow home automation hardware to integrate with its app. Users will be able to group their home automation products into “scenes” and control how these devices interact under certain conditions. For example, a “bed-time” scene may shut off the lights, turn down the AC and lock the front door. Users will be able to trigger HomeKit scenes through the Apple Watch with the tap of a button or ask Siri to do it for them.
The home automation industry is still waiting on its silver bullet, and this isn’t it. This isn’t going to convince consumers to replace working lights and thermostats in their homes for only a little added convenience. For instance, I would need to spend roughly $1,440 just to automate the lighting in my house. I have 36 light switches and each would need to be replaced with a $40 smart switch. There either needs to be a substantial increase in convenience and/or cost savings or a significant drop in price for the market to take off as people expect.
5. News is Good News for Publishers
Apple announced that it will replace its native Newsstand app with “News” - a smarter content aggregation platform. Content providers can distribute RSS feeds through News, and users will have the ability to consume this content via a much more pleasing UI. The big difference between this app, other news aggregators and read it later services is that it doesn’t eliminate advertising entirely. Publishers can use Apple’s iAd network and retain 70% of revenue or run ads independently and retain 100%. I suspect that Apple will enforce a limit on the number of ads a company can run in a given article. Now is a good time for publishers to prepare their content for the app’s fall release.