Apple's next big thing is not a device

William Meisel/The Software Society
09 Jun 2014

Reports that Apple has ordered enough parts to ship 3-5 million of an unannounced smartwatch in the near future raise the question of whether the “iWatch” is the “next big thing” from Apple. Most analysts downplayed the announcements at the recent Apple Developers Conference, saying no new device was announced.

My view is that Apple made it clear at the conference what its next big thing is, and it isn’t a device. I argued a year ago in this blog that Apple would leverage its advantage in controlling both the hardware and software of its products (in contrast to Android-based devices, for example) to create a unified experience for its users across devices and applications, reducing the increasing problem users face with digital overload - too many devices with too many applications with too many features and too frequent updates and too much communications from a growing range of communication and social media options.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said it clearly at the conference: “You’ve seen how our operating system, devices, and services work together in harmony. We do this so we can create a seamless experience for our users.” Cook has noted that 89% of iOS users are running the latest version of the OS, compared to 9% for Android, emphasizing the unity of Apple customers. Over a third of Android users are running a version from four years ago, he said, not getting security updates or the latest features. He claimed Android “dominates the global malware market.”

Some of the announcements on OS upgrades at the conference that relate to Cook’s theme of harmony:

  • Third-party apps will have more access to Apple apps through APIs, allowing tighter integration and potentially reducing the need to re-enter data into third-party apps.
  • You can send and receive phone calls and messages on a Mac connected to an iPhone. When your iPhone rings, you’ll see caller ID on Macs and iPads as well, and can answer the phone in both places. One can start composing an email on an iPhone and finish it on a Mac.
  • New cloud services further the integration of applications and devices.
  • Home control with Apple’s newly announced “HomeKit” is integrated with Apple’s environment. Apps for dimming the lights, opening the front door, and turning on the stereo will now be accessible through a single Apple hub on the iPhone and iPad.

Siri should be a big part of unifying the Apple experience. It’s a single user interface mode that can work across platforms and isn’t dependent on screen size. The personal assistant will be more instantly available in new releases of the company’s operating systems, waking up to “Hey, Siri” without a button press. She’ll help you identify and buy music, and, of course, continues to try to help you with anything you want. She will control a HomeKit if you have one. Apple’s CarPlay makes her easily available in automobiles; Apple doesn’t make a car (yet), but is getting manufacturers such as Mercedes, Ferrari, and Volvo to build in CarPlay this year. If you don’t know how to do something or just don’t want to navigate multiple screens to get something done, just ask Siri.

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