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Apple’s next big thing isn’t a thing

Reports that Apple has ordered enough parts to ship 3-5 million of an unannounced smartwatch in the near future raise the question of whether the “iWatch” is the “next big thing” from Apple. Most analysts downplayed the announcements at the recent Apple Developers Conference, saying no new device was announced.

My view is that Apple made it clear at the conference what its next big thing is, and it isn’t a device. I argued a year ago in this blog that Apple would leverage its advantage in controlling both the hardware and software of its products (in contrast to Android-based devices, for example) to create a unified experience for its users across devices and applications, reducing the increasing problem users face with digital overload—too many devices with too many applications with too many features and too frequent updates and too much communications from a growing range of communication and social media options.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said it clearly at the conference: “You’ve seen how our operating system, devices, and services work together in harmony. We do this so we can create a seamless experience for our users.” Cook has noted that 89% of iOS users are running the latest version of the OS, compared to 9% for Android, emphasizing the unity of Apple customers. Over a third of Android users are running a version from four years ago, he said, not getting security updates or the latest features. He claimed Android “dominates the global malware market.”

Some of the announcements on OS upgrades at the conference that relate to Cook’s theme of harmony:

  • Third-party apps will have more access to Apple apps through APIs, allowing tighter integration and potentially reducing the need to re-enter data into third-party apps.
  • You can send and receive phone calls and messages on a Mac connected to an iPhone. When your iPhone rings, you’ll see caller ID on Macs and iPads as well, and can answer the phone in both places. One can start composing an email on an iPhone and finish it on a Mac.
  • New cloud services further the integration of applications and devices.
  • Home control with Apple’s newly announced “HomeKit” is integrated with Apple’s environment. Apps for dimming the lights, opening the front door, and turning on the stereo will now be accessible through a single Apple hub on the iPhone and iPad.

Siri should be a big part of unifying the Apple experience. It’s a single user interface mode that can work across platforms and isn’t dependent on screen size. The personal assistant will be more instantly available in new releases of the company’s operating systems, waking up to “Hey, Siri” without a button press. She’ll help you identify and buy music, and, of course, continues to try to help you with anything you want. She will control a HomeKit if you have one. Apple’s CarPlay makes her easily available in automobiles; Apple doesn’t make a car (yet), but is getting manufacturers such as Mercedes, Ferrari, and Volvo to build in CarPlay this year. If you don’t know how to do something or just don’t want to navigate multiple screens to get something done, just ask Siri.

And what about that smartwatch? It is likely to embody the philosophy by being largely a peripheral for other Apple products, most obviously the iPhone, and heavily using Siri.

And Apple TV? It is largely a peripheral for Apple devices now, and that role will evolve. The speech recognition company Novauris purchased by Apple this year didn’t have a general speech recognition engine; they specialized in efficiently and accurately selection from very long lists by voice, e.g., all the entertainment options available to you in today’s world of TV options.

What’s Apple’s next big thing? It’s been announced.

3 thoughts on “Apple’s next big thing isn’t a thing

  • Kevin Brown says:

    If putting your faith in a single supplier is your thing, then go for it. As for me, I am an eternal pessimist about companies, and will never wrap myself up in a single vendor, regardless of what we’re speaking of. I relish an extremely varied, heterogeneous market that allows me many choices. No “You can take any color you want, as long as it’s black” for me!

  • I tend to agree with this analysis. There is more to play for here than just selling hardware. The strategy of Facebook, Google etc is to get users to sign up to their site, and once logged in to the site ensure that every conceivable function is provided from within that site so that the user never needs to leave. Once the user community is captured, the opportunity for commercial revenues grows rapidly. Users spend money via links from the site, and the site owner creams off a fee. The problem is that nobody, not even Facebook, can design a site that is sticky enough.

    But the sort of fully immersive world that Apple is trying to create would be much stickier. If I communicate via Siri (and Siri learns to recognise my voice accurately, and learns my preferences), and if my working life and my home automation are built around the same tightly integrated technology, then this is no longer just a web site. It is my entire world, and it is controlled by Apple. Once signed up to this world, it will become increasingly hard to leave it. Siri can then start offering to help me spend more and more money via channels that Apple controls (buying entertainment, refilling the fridge, buying presents for birthdays and christmas, paying utility bills, …). Siri will help me do all of this and the convenience and pain of going elsewhere will keep me locked in.

  • APPLE has always the same Focused Strategy of controlling all ends ( Main Hardware and Platform & distribution ) but tend to give more freedom on Accessories and Add-ons and this is were Open Hardware & IoT devices and sensors will be allowed to flourish outside Apple using the API’s and Apps provided … Maintaining a tightly controlled Platform and environment with loose “tentacles” even if the tentacle broke it would be a very solo incident that will not disrupt the global high availability platform marketed…

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