WWDC 2014 Observations: It’s all About the Ecosystem

on June 2, 2014
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Much was released today at the 2014 WWDC Keynote that I feel is impactful for Apple’s customers, developers, and the Apple ecosystem. More was released than I have time to get to in this analysis but I want to focus on a few of the highlights.

Apple is Getting More “Open”

Looking at many of the APIs and in particular support for third party keyboards like Swype and Swiftkey, shows me Apple is willing to be a bit more open than in previous years. Apple does this through new extensibility features that allow apps to interoperate or integrate at a system level more so than ever before. Apple had been hesitant to do this since security is at a high priority. Enabling third parties to integrate assets into other apps needed to be done in a secure, very “Apple” way. Apple has made strides in this area and we have to be excited about the results.

Healthkit and the Health app in iOS 8 showcase how Apple can work with third party hardware to integrate their solutions more tightly with iOS. Homekit similarly brings the future of the Internet of Things right into iOS. This echoes what I have been saying Apple should do by developing solutions to help third party connected hardware work best with iOS.

Other More “Open” Features to Note:
– Touch ID API integration
– Camera APIs (letting third parties integrate their filters and more into Apple’s camera app)
– Cloud APIs

An Integrated Apple is a Differentiated Apple

Apple is truly showing the difference in their philosophy when it comes to computers small, medium, and large. While OS X Yosemite has some very similar design features to iOS, they are clearly still designed for specific usage. Apple believes in the right screen for the right moment. Sometimes that moment calls for a PC, sometimes an iPad, and other times the iPhone will do. However, integrating seamlessly these devices is the Holy Grail. Apple is marching closer to this goal.

This strategy is a stark contrast to what Microsoft does with Windows. Microsoft pushes “convergence” Apple pushes “continuity.” Apple’s vision is about harnessing the uniqueness of each device rather than converging them.

Nowhere is this more evident than how Apple is pushing continuity between all their devices. Handoff is the process that lets you move seamlessly from the iPhone to the iPad and to the Mac. The example was if you were working on a Keynote presentation, you could move it to any iPad or iPhone in proximity with a touch of a button and pick up right where you left off on the other device.

iCloud/”the cloud” is becoming even more tightly integrated into Apple’s ecosystem and iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite drive this point home. New features like the large file email support into the Mac Mail ap is a great example. But my personal favorite is the family sharing/family cloud solution.

Since 2012, I’ve been vocal in saying we need a better way for families to use all their technology together with better access to digital media. Apple has finally solved this and has done so elegantly. Families can share, media, reminders, notes, to-dos, calendar, apps, and more. This I feel is an extremely “sticky” solution. Something that will make not just Apple’s products desirable, but their ecosystem as well, to an entire family. Apple has a leg up on competitors with this solution and their tight integration should give them an advantage for quite some time.

One other very interesting observation. Apple is leveraging iCloud to make every photo you take, and ever take, available on all your devices. Photo Stream did this but only for 30 days. This solution takes it even further. What’s more, they are offering a monthly billing option for expanded data. With iCloud, you get 5GB free. Now .99c a month gets you an extra 20GB and $3.99 a month gets you an extra 200GB. Think about the size of Apple’s user base. If even a fraction of their users sign up for this, we are talking tens and even hundreds millions of dollars of additional quarterly revenue. One could even make a case given the size of their ecosystem that this solution alone could at some point be an additional billion dollars of monthly revenue. This is a major example of Apple’s potential to further monetize their services.

Other Integration Feature to Note:
– SMS now on all screens
– Better hotspot integration from mobile device to Mac
– Send and receive calls from Mac, making the Mac a speaker phone tied to your iPhone
– Airdrop between OS X and iOS

Developers Rule the World

At the end of the day, developers are one of Apple’s most important assets. I hear developers talk about how they don’t feel Apple supports them enough. Hopefully after today they understand Apple is listening. Apple, by releasing what is basically a new highly simplified programming language, is making developing for iOS even easier. And with over 4,000 new APIs, and a somewhat more “open” Apple from a developer stand point, Apple is working to continue to make iOS the best, easiest, and most profitable operating system to develop for.

Apple making developing for iOS more attractive for new developers, and creating unique skill sets for iOS developers.

Developer Features to Note

– Metal and how developers leverage this technology to fully utilize the power of the A7
– Swift and how developers harness the new language

Conclusion

Ultimately Apple is doing the things only Apple can do strategically. Integration across key areas of the “stack” are things Apple is uniquely positioned to do. As Horace Dediu tweets here:

Today we saw how software advances the Apple ecosystem. In the fall we will see the hardware to advance it even further.