WWDC 2014 Observations: It’s all About the Ecosystem

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


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.

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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

19 thoughts on “WWDC 2014 Observations: It’s all About the Ecosystem”

  1. Very good snap analysis of an extremely dense presentation. The rest of this year is going to be very exciting for Apple users.

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

    How true. From the software/UI advances, one can already see capabilities (Hey Siri, Home, Health, etc) that would be integral to an iWatch; it being far more convenient than iPhone in using those capabilities.

  3. “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.”

    100% on the money

    Best WWDC I’ve seen in a long time. Apple took it up a couple notches today. Well done.

  4. It was fun watching the keynote on my iMac. It was Apple stepping up it’s game, getting better at what Apple does best. Users of all Apple products will have a better experience when the new system software and apps are released.

    The production values of the keynote were good, and generally everyone delivered their lines well. There was no outstanding weirdness, but I didn’t see any outstanding presence either. I think Apple could use more intensity and showmanship in their new product presentations in the fall. Perhaps Jimmy Iovine could help out with this.

    1. Nope. In order to present at this level, you need to understand these concepts and topics. Iovine is not a technology guy, he is not the head of a technology company, he would be a poor performance. Craig (I don’t know how to spell his last name) did a great job presenting, he knew his stuff and was relaxed. I think he is the head of software, so, this is his thing. I would like to Ive get up on stage to discuss some of the overall design decisions. Some of these guys are also finding their big stage voices/persona. People seem to forget that Steve has been giving these presentations for years.

      1. Yep. Presentations in the fall are often music oriented and generally much less technical. There are often musical performances at the end. Iovine could help out in a production role, not as a primary presenter. The one cameo with Dr. Dre was kind of fun. In the fall, that kind of thing could be expanded a bit and made to fit the products being announced better.

        1. The fall show has become far less music oriented. And yes, that is when he will have a roll. He was hired to be a part of Apple, and he will be that part, he is not the most important part of Apple by a long shot, everyone has to play their roles. I agree, that maybe he’ll advise them on presentations, but it’s not like Apple doesn’t have people already who can do that.

      2. Sorry, Ive will muse, reflect, and ruminate with interminable pauses between flashes of design speak insight and brilliance that would only be compelling to people who are into design (which I consider myself to be). No, Mr. Ive is much better off in exquisitely produced and edited close-in videos where you can see the ache in his expression as he talks about his work.

  5. As a developer, all I can say is wow! Swift might be a game changer. All the easy app rapid prototyping that you get with Objective-C with a much more modern language. I’m excited by what I saw today.

    1. I’ve only skimmed a few of the videos for the other WWDC sessions, but I think the many improvements in iOS8, Yosemite and X-code are also nearly as significant at Swift. Apple has a huge number of treats for us developers this year.

  6. What amazed and heartened me about this WWDC keynote was how little fluff/self-congratulatory number bragging/feel-good video/padding there was. Two hours of solid software product details (yes there were a few funnies, and would it be an Apple event without “awesome”-ness and “best ever”-fulness?). And so many of those products were only hinted at: there will be, one hopes, much more meat in the detail sessions for home automation, health care, inter-app communication and iOS extensions, to name just a few.

  7. it was very impressive today. as i watched i could see at least two dozen or more new iOS/OS X features that i will use a lot, just as an everyday consumer. while developers got most of the app capabilities they dreamed of. that is going to generate real enthusiasm among the buying public this Fall, and fresh new energy from developers, resulting in a next generation of noticably improved apps for the Holidays. not to mention the iPad’s new killer Metal graphics engine for a new generation of games and virtual realities.

    Google will now rush to catch up in turn as best they can by next year (64 bit anyone?). but when it comes to privacy and security, it’s hopeless for Droid users. fragmentation destroys Android’s security, and Google itself destroys its privacy.

  8. I think Swift is firmly targeted at courting web developers. It has many of the features that are hip right now and web developers have been at the forefront of the proliferation of new languages in recent years. I think it could attract a lot of new talent to app development. “Come program apps, you no longer need to use a dated, stodgy language.”

  9. I think Apple disproved a lot of the anxiety around them losing focus or lacking ambition. We’ve seen some rapid follow-through on their innovations last year:

    Touch ID –> APIs
    Multitasking –> Extensibility
    64-bit –> Metal

    Among others. Apple is thinking and executing on a very impressive scale right now, and I shudder to think what a company that did what Apple did yesterday considers to be “big plans”.

    1. “I think Apple disproved a lot of the anxiety around them losing focus”

      Anyone who thought that clearly has no clue about how Apple works. That being the case, yesterday isn’t going to change their minds.

      1. The price of AAPL would indicate otherwise. In recent years, there has been a run-up prior to WWDC in anticipation of new products, followed by a nearly immediate selloff. Yet 48 hours after the event, AAPL is at a 52 week high. I think bears will have a very hard time sticking to the “Apple can’t innovate” narrative for the rest of this year.

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