1. Search is a New Battleground
While it’s been largely glossed over by the press, Apple is making a clear run to own the search game by making Spotlight (Apple’s main search bar) the gateway for most users’ consumption of digital media. By integrating content from across the web (e.g. native applications, To Do lists, contacts, etc.) and making it all accessible via Siri, Apple is in a unique position to replace Google as the gateway to digital content (at least on iOS devices).
Content-heavy apps, including video, have an immediate opportunity to index/tag their content using Apple’s new approaches. This requires a deep dive into the apps (and websites), as well as utilization of a real analytics strategy to figure out what to tag and how to tag it in a way that will appeal to Apple’s algorithms. Assuming Apple can get consumers to buy into their vision of using the Spotlight search bar, this may be an opportunity for content providers to take advantage of a real digital land grab for the first time in years.
2. The Increasing Divergence of iOS, Android, and Mobile Web
By introducing multitasking, new approaches to video display, and a series of new tools that allow developers to speed up mobile development, Apple is further differentiating the mobile experience from Android and the mobile web. Going forward, great mobile experiences will have to be highly customized, both in design and development, for each platform.
The debate as to whether mobile web will push out mobile applications is dead, at least for the time being. Apple continues to innovate its tools at a relentless pace, which web-based languages and frameworks approved by committees cannot match. Great native experiences will be difficult to develop using cross-platform tools, and the difference between great and mediocre developers will broaden as differences will go more and more under the hood.
The next-gen analytics and debugging tools that Apple introduced will not only change the way we develop, but also the velocity at which we develop. Make sure your dev teams are set up to take advantage of next-generation improvements like Metal, deep linking, multitasking, analytics, QA, and search indexing. While these next-gen improvements won’t be readily visible, they will drive significant differences in performance, development speed, and “feel” of apps.
3.Setting the Watch Free
With global pre-orders of the Apple Watch estimated at over 2.3 million units, Apple Watch could outpace the iPhone in year-one sales. While there is still a long way to go, it definitely can’t be ignored. At the keynote, Apple announced that standalone apps, untethered from iPhone or iPad, can now be developed. This frees us to create truly customized watch experiences, but only time will tell if the apps created in the coming 12 months will be compelling enough to drive user adoption. As for me, I still haven’t seen a watch app that makes me say, “wow, I need one of those.”
If you have an app that can easily take advantage of notifications, glances, and complications (yes, I know it’s a term of art, but Apple could have done better), spend time working up a “light” app. Don’t invest heavily at this point, Apple Watch has a long way to go and is still very much a work in progress. There is, however, worth in playing with the tools and seeing how far you can take them.
4. Apple Wants to Replace Your Wallet
It’s true, and Apple made it very clear at the keynote. Slowly but surely, Apple Pay has been growing in adoption. According to Apple Insider, Apple Pay now accounts for two out of every three dollars processed through contactless payment systems. With the relaunch of Wallet (formerly Passbook) and deep integration into loyalty, we feel this momentum will continue at a more rapid pace.
Any business that takes regular payments from consumers need to be all over Wallet. One of our favorite quotes from the last years is “Half of Americans are using mobile payments, but 98% of those are using it to buy coffee.” Starbucks revolutionized mobile payments by tying together payments and loyalty – of course Starbucks had the huge advantage that many of its customers come several times a week. The next step is that almost any company that has regular paying customers needs to look hard at a payment/loyalty strategy based on mobile.
5. HomeKit Tied into iCloud
HomeKit has been around, but no one really knew how it helped change people’s lives. By putting iCloud in the middle, everything has changed. Now all your compatible devices will tie into iCloud using your home network, and you can access them from anywhere in the world. We’ve been lukewarm on home innovation, but now the gates have been opened. We can all see the utility of using our apps to turn of the A/C after we rushed out this morning, check a camera in the fridge to see if we need to buy milk on the way home, or unlocking our doors when the kids got home early from soccer.
The home is the new battleground, and now the race is really on. My kids always ask me, “how did you ever meet up with people before cell phones?” My answer, “Careful planning.” Just like our kids’ social lives are largely devoid of planning, soon our homes will allow us to experience a planning-free domestic life. I can’t wait.
Any home-based tool or experience, including media, will be accessible from anywhere in the world. The impacts of this are incredibly wide-ranging — anyone running or managing physical plants, from stores to factories to apartment buildings, will be able to leverage this technology. Appliances and virtually any electronic device can be tied into HomeKit. To date, home automation has seemed like a solution in search of a problem. But with iCloud as the intermediary, the possibilities have opened up. Over the coming years we’ll ask ourselves how we lived without a connected home.