Apple’s WWDC: Three Big Things

As I digest Apple’s plentiful announcements at WWDC, I want to highlight a few I think have long range foundational impact. As our readers know, I look at the foundations platforms lay and then build upon. At the core, Microsoft, Apple, and Google all are continuing to evolve in directions that suit their strengths and align to their business models. This is why understanding the areas where they are incentivized to innovate based on their business model is a key part of the analysis. Three areas stood out to me as particularly noteworthy.

Siri Intelligence

Apple highlighted an interesting stat — Siri delivers a billion requests each week. While a large number, it still suggests relatively light regular usage from Apple’s installed base on a weekly basis. However, Apple did note Siri is “quietly” getting popular and I can believe the number of requests is trending upwards; I’m just not sure how quickly. However, by adding deeper intelligence with Proactive, Apple is looking to expand even further.

Ultimately, our smartphones are best positioned to be our true assistants. To understand and proactively think ahead for us on our behalf. I have call this an anticipation engine and I believe, in concept, there is great potential for these artificial intelligence assistants. But where Proactive added elements of interest was in the search API combined with recommendations. Both these moves are intentionally away from Google. When watching the demo of what can be done with the spotlight search API, it became clear Apple is grabbing more control of search away from Google. With search APIs and deep linking, consumers are now more easily able to search and get recommendations and suggestions without searching the web via Google and even having to go to a web browser. These small steps toward deeper search integration both with Siri machine learning, both native and cloud, as well as through apps is very interesting as a foundation for the future.

iPad is Evolving

What stood out to me about the iPad iOS 9 specific features was how iPad is slowly evolving to be more PC-like rather than smartphone-like. It is inching ever closer to the capabilities of a full PC. Tim Cook said the iPad is most people’s primary computer. I’d argue this is the smartphone, but I understand the point he wants to make. For most owners of both a traditional PC and an iPad, this person uses their iPad more frequently than their traditional computer, in very similar ways, and more often. I have strong data to suggest a healthy percentage of iPad owners have replaced the vast majority of their “PC” tasks with an iPad.

The iPad started and became the fastest consumer adopted device in the industry’s history because it was more closely related to the iPhone than the Mac. As an owner of an iPad matured, they started to want to do more “PC” like tasks with it but maintain the simplicity of the iPhone. This is where the new features for iOS 9 for iPad start to break free from more iPhone-like to more “PC” like.

Watch this closely as the value proposition of the iPad evolves. Consumers still associate a few critical tasks for “needing a PC.” While this is true in some cases and not in others, the sentiment exists regardless. If the iPad can build on iPhone simplicity yet increase its capabilities to get close to or actually replace a consumer’s PC, then it may be very well positioned to capitalize on the upside of consumer PC refresh we are expecting over the next few years. It could become the $499 entry level Apple PC which has never existed before.

Watch Growing Up Fast

Lastly, the Apple Watch is growing up fast. Perhaps many of the features released simply didn’t make the first cut but what matters is Apple iterated quickly, listened to feedback, and brought new features which will strengthen the Apple Watch value proposition for the Q4 and Q1 2016 holiday seasons.

Giving developers access to the sensors, complications, and “time travel” will all add new elements to the use cases which already are compelling for the Apple Watch. Native apps should help with some of the lag, but I feel, as apps integrate into other core features like complications, the apps value materializes even better in glances and complications — where I believe they are more useful than as a destination on the Watch.

The demo Apple Watch owners will be able to give to friends and family this fall is continuing to get more compelling.

Just like Google, Apple is building on the foundations which have been laid in operating systems past. I believe this trend will continue for many years to come. All platform companies are borrowing ideas from each other. This is a good thing as consumers in each ecosystem win by getting great features and experiences. What matters is consumers stay happy and their needs with technology are meaningfully advanced. We are in that stage of the industry cycle where meaningful advancements is what is to be expected.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

5 thoughts on “Apple’s WWDC: Three Big Things”

  1. I’m fascinated by the “iPad as a main computer” angle. I’ve noticed it with Android tablets too. For most users, they’re functionally complete, and the ease of use is an order of magnitude better. Shouldn’t that naturally flow into iOS/Android being used in the desktop and laptop form factors ? Is Apple trying to force a MacOS upsell+lock-in instead of letting users choose to stay with that they know and like ?

    On the Android side, the “desktop” business seems to be thriving, there’s tens of models, and some long-lasting focused OEMs with a history of good products and support (Minix, Pipo, Tronsmart), Even Xiaomi have 2, and Dell have the Cloud Connect though purely marketed at corps; Huawei don’t seem to have actually released the product they announced last year. There are a few laptops, the most visible one from HP. I’m wondering if Google are being shy about stepping on MS’s toes (unlikely), or just having a hard time letting go of ChromeOS for those scenarii ? A few very minor tweaks would improve Android tremendously (right-click support, some formal Common User Access-like keyboard shortcuts right now it’s piecemeal, and an official “desktop” category in the PlayStore. That’s it, the rest is here: HDD support, wired ethernet, printers, mouse, gamepads, user accounts…).

    The windows of opportunity might be closing already though: Windows boxes and netbooks similar in form factors and prices have popped up, though they’re competing mostly thanks to Intel’s mobile CPU subsidies and Windows license shenanigans (buyers find themselves having to shell out for an expensive license after a 30-days trial…). Plus while Windows does have its strong points, the main idea is for casual users to keep the same OS/Ecosystem as on Mobile.

    Why do you think neither Apple nor Google are going after the desktop and laptop use cases ? I’d argue simply network effects would make the infinitesimal investment worth it ?

    1. If I’m honest, my iPad is my main computer when I’m home. I develop software and carry enough Apple devices with me to have my own Apple store. There’s significant inertia to putting away the iPad and dragging out one of my MBP’s or MBA’s.

      Also, being honest, I started on Android…string of Palm devices…RAZR…Samsung…iPhone 4s. I was never happy with the earlier phones, just didn’t want to deal with AT&T.

  2. Regarding the billion requests per week for Siri. Do you know of a similar stat for Google Now? Of course these are apples and oranges, but I think it’s important to know how intensively these services are being used right now before getting too excited over the possibility of these personal assistants.

    1. I imagine that a Siri number is more important for Apple than a Google Now number is for Google, since Siri is the primary way Apple users provide inputs to Apple, while Google collects inputs from various other terminals.

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