Once again the Apple faithful dutifully attended or watched its annual developer update to see what the company had in store.
Apple’s momentum with developers is staggering. It claims to have over 30m developers and since the iPhone launched, the company claims to have shared nearly $50bn (£35bn) of shared revenue with app makers. It remains the go-to platform if you are a developer that wants to make money.
Rather than any giant leaps, what we witnessed were incremental improvements but over time I’m sure these will prove compelling to the hundreds of millions of people that own Apple devices. There were definitely some nice enhancements to the user experience on all Apple devices, but the ones that will matter most were on iPhone.
Apple delivered what it called “its biggest update ever” (aren’t they always?) as it previewed iOS 10. This preview covered numerous areas with updates to all the key applications including Maps, Music, News, Photos and even the keyboard. There were plenty of “I’d definitely use that” moments for me and it looked like a great set of updates. Little touches like improving the way notifications are delivered on the lock screen of an iPhone are a great example of this.
Importantly Apple also continued to open up access to key apps like Maps, iMessage and Siri allowing developers to integrate their own apps with these services.
This is essential as Apple responds to growing competition and the requirement for deeper developer access across its apps and services. An important example is messaging. Opening up iMessage to developers and lighting up new features will be key to driving engagement in the face of fearsome competition in the messaging space.
Another area where we were provided a glimpse of what Apple is planning was around artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence and natural voice interfaces are going to represent a huge area of investment and disruption in coming years and Apple needs to be in the game.
However, Apple is taking a very different approach to deep learning and artificial intelligence compared to rivals. All analysis is done on a users’ device rather than in “the cloud” in line with Apple’s commitment to respect user privacy. Whether this can scale as the amount of data to be analysed grows remains to be seen, but it will be a compelling differentiation to some.
Apple’s voice assistant, Siri was an area where announcements were expected. The rumours proved correct and Siri was highlighted at several points during the event. Personally I’m excited to see how Siri is implemented on the Mac as this could provide a whole new dimension to day to day work. Of course, Apple is not alone in its efforts in this area and rival Microsoft is also investing huge amounts in integrating its voice assistant, Cortana, within Windows powered PCs.
Another impressive demo was the ability to “cut and paste” information across devices. For example you will be able to “cut” some text or a photo on your iPhone but then “paste” it into an email on your Mac or iPad. This is a perfect example of Apple continuing to benefit from the tight control is has across all its products. It means new services and features that work across devices can easily be implemented where rivals would struggle.
The bottom line is that Apple delivered a huge amount of information during it two hour long keynote session and it will probably be weeks or months before we fully understand exactly how these developments will shape future Apple’s devices and platforms.
Ironically though, for most consumers it will be small touches like enhanced messaging and interactive emojis that will have the biggest impact. If that ensures people remain in love with their iPhones, Apple will be happy.