Apple’s annual pitch to the developers is over and, as the dust settles on WWDC 2014, there’s an air of quiet contentment. After copping grief from all angles for losing its innovative spark, Apple has managed to show just enough intent to keep the faithful happy and its detractors quiet, for the time being anyway.
But what does that mean for us? Apple’s new offerings may have left many in the developer community swooning, but just how big a deal is it for those of us that don’t code for a living?
The marriage of a comprehensive app ecosystem with beautifully designed hardware has been key to Apple’s success and, as Forrester Research puts it, WWDC 2014 has been about the tech giant highlighting just how badly it wants to own the mobile moments across people’s lives.
For many businesses, this is exactly the sort of intent that excites and scares them in equal measure.
Apple and its peers Google and Amazon are the stalwarts in the so-called ‘age of the customers'. They have managed to instil new customer behaviour, open new mediums for connections and, along the way, managed to turn some business models obsolete.
The iPhone maker isn’t exactly the engine of product innovation that it once was. While some say it’s inexorably trapped in an inertia of its own making, WWDC 2014 just might be a step in the right direction for a more open and inclusive Apple.
A world run on apps
Applications may well be the lifeblood of our future and Apple is clearly aiming to maintain its primacy in that space, even if it means lowering some of the barriers of its cherished walled garden.
By making over 4,000 APIs -- Application Program Interfaces -- open for developers to connect their programs into iOS8, Apple is showing an unprecedented level of openness. But there’s a catch.
The openness is a necessary part of Apple’s long-term strategy: one where developers build the services ecosystem architecture to keep users locked in.
Whether it’s HealthKit, HomeKit, or TouchID, Apple is giving its developers the tools to build services that at their heart are designed to enhance customer experience.
Apps are the necessary mortar that will hold together the new platforms and along the way enhance Apple’s existing ones.
While HealthKit and HomeKit are new areas of exploration, Touch ID is one avenue that could yet give life to Apple’s aspirations in the mobile payments segment.
With Apple’s Touch ID now open to third-party apps, the company has taken a significant step forward on the road to building secure applications for identity and access management. The end game here could well be about rejuvenating iTunes, which is seemingly in need of a touch-up.
One Australian app developer that managed to get a front row seat at this year’s WWDC is Melbourne-based b2cloud. Company co-founder and director Luke Smorgon says that while Apple has given a lot of tools to developers, there’s an incremental flow-on effect for businesses.
Developers like b2cloud are building the essential architecture within which business models and consumer behaviour is evolving. Smorgon says the one clear message that businesses need to take to heart is that the future is all about leveraging platforms to build meaningful interactions with customers.
With the health and home automation markets in a relatively nascent stage, Smorgon says that Apple’s push with HomeKit and HealthKit provides an opportunity for start-ups and innovators.
It’s also a shot in the arm for Australian app developers, who should feel a lot more comfortable about experimentation.
“Customers, by and large, like to feel they are getting early access, so this is a great opportunity for app developers to re-connect with their customers,” Smorgon says.
One area that Smorgon is particularly excited about is voice and Siri, which Apple is hoping will play a more central role in its home automation platform.
“Voice is more important than ever before as consumers look to address accessibility issues,” he says.
Combine that imperative with the demographic challenges of an ageing population in developed countries, including Australia and one can see a clear-cut business opportunity.