The True Post-Steve Era
Even though Steve Jobs direct influence has been absent at Apple for a few years, his signature on specific things was still there. Apple does not plan products in one or even two year cycles but rather plans much farther out. Much of what we have seen over the past few years, Steve would have had at least some insight and influence on. However, I think what we are now seeing are specific things coming from Apple in which Steve has no influence on. Basically we are seeing direction and decisions made by the leadership in a true post Steve Jobs era.
I’ll be honest, even though I believe the culture of Apple to be sound and to be a culture unique with innovation and vision, I still was curious to see key decisions that would be make without past guidance from Steve. The question I get most often from the financial community is whether I believe Apple can truly innovate with Steve’s vision not present. I, of course, have always believed this but I think now we see the evidence as well that the answer is yes.
Whatever the tech media community bubble thinks or opines about iOS 7, I am confident the mass market, the market Apple really cares about, is going to love it. This is a huge step forward for the platform and one that I believe is a new solid foundation to build upon. This is a positive sign for those of us observing Apple in the the post Steve Era.
Initially, the point of support for third-party game controllers didn’t get much press. Now, more articles are coming to light looking at the importance of this move. This is a big step but Apple is not ready to take on the console business yet and here is why.
Even though I think Apple believes that the gaming angle can be a trojan horse to the living room, and it can at least until an Apple TV SDK comes out, there are two things missing in Apple’s gaming ecosystem that need to get solved if they want a true console experience.
The first is better multi-player. The XBOX 360 just hit its 29th month as the number one selling game console. The primary reason for this is the network effect accumulated by XBOX for its LIVE service for multi-player online gaming. People simply want to get together with a large number of friends and go play online together. Game Center does not support this use case yet, and if a console mentality is to be pushed true multi-player and even massive multiplayer needs to integrated into Apple’s gaming ecosystem.
The other is a technical issue. Connect third party controllers to an iPhone or iPad, and connect to the TV through AirPlay, and you have a close to console experience. Except for the latency of WiFi. I’ve tested this in a number of environments and my conclusion is that WiFi is not the solution for latency free AirPlay mirroring of a game to the TV. Now this may not be a huge deal when playing Angry Birds. But if I am to go play Modern Warfare with friends in a competitive environment, it is a huge deal.
Only one solution has crossed my path that I believe solves this and that is the 60 ghz solution. A number of companies are offering 60 ghz chipsets that are built specifically for solving bringing gaming from smartphones and tablets to the TV. 60 ghz is a shorter range spectrum than WiFi and best in a line-of-sight environment but it solves the problem of managing a real-time gaming solution over WiFi.
On this point, I am a proponent of separating our rich media networks from our data networks and a technology like 60 ghz is easy to implement and brings with it a quality of service for rich media applications.
Intel and Haswell
The close collaboration between Intel and Apple with respect to Intel’s 4th generation core, named Haswell, is very interesting. If you recall the first MacBook Air was released with some special collaboration between Intel and Apple and led to the design of the first MacBook Air to be possible.
This collaboration effort is yielding best of breed battery life and it is more than just slightly significant. If there was any doubt that Apple was committed to Intel in their Mac line, that doubt is now cast aside. While I don’t see Apple switching their iPhones or iPads to Intel architecture any time soon, the tight integration of their chips into Mac products will allow Apple to do things other competitors simply can not.
A Line In the Sand
Lastly, this WWDC was a statement show for Apple. They are they looking to present the image of the company in a new light. This is evidenced the videos they showed during the keynote. But more importantly they drew a line in the sand and re-enforced their commitment to innovate uniquely and differently for both their Mac line and their iOS line of products.
This was made clear with the desktop and notebook specific features that were added to Mac OS X Mavericks. Many things that cater to power users. It is clear that Apple is not trying to “dumb down” OS X and try to make it more like iOS. If anything, Apple is tightly integrating services across the platforms but not looking to merge them. Apple is clearly taking a different path from Microsoft with regards to the operating system and that is now as clear as ever.
When it comes to PCs Apple is headed down a different path than the PC makers who have to run Windows. Apple’s vertical model allows them to do things competitors can’t. I am confident that over time these differences will become more evident and help Apple stand out from the pack even more than they do know.