updated 09:09 am EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
WWDC 2014 saw Apple unveil an arsenal of weapons to combat Android
Apple's WWDC 2014 could well be the most important statement of intent it has ever made. Without a single new device on show, Apple has launched its biggest assault on Android yet. The scope and breadth of innovation and software development on show was breathtaking and shows that Apple has a crystal clear vision of where it is headed and how it wants to get there. It used numerous statistics to emphasise its numerical advantages over Google's Android platform, while bringing the full weight of its creative power to bear. It unleashed a wave of unprecedented software innovation in the stunning new Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 that was then driven home with the announcement it has developed a brand new computing language, Swift, for developing iOS apps.
Although Apple has been publicly quiet on the hardware front, yesterday's Keynote clearly shows that the company has been anything but idle. Last year its software developers amazed with rapid pace of development in transitioning from iOS 6 to the completely redesigned iOS 7 in under 12 months - not only was it redesigned, but Apple simultaneously re-compiled iOS 7 as fully 64-bit mobile operating system. As impressive as that was, what we saw unveiled at WWDC 2014 shows that Apple has the resources to blow away the competition through single-minded determination and sheer hard work. It also should help to remove any lingering doubts about the ability for Apple to continue to lead the tech industry in both software and hardware innovation for the foreseeable future. Tim Cook has clearly marshalled his troops with military precision to execute the three decisive blows represented in Mac OS X Yosemite, iOS 8 and Swift.
As I wrote yesterday ahead of WWDC, Apple's post-PC paradigm is all about making personal computing more personal than ever before. Its announcements around health, home automation, while hugely significant, were almost swamped by a vast array of other software-related feature enhancements to both Mac OS X and iOS. One of the most interesting developments was the new level of integration between its Macs and iOS devices delivered through 'Continuity.' While it was widely anticipated that Mac OS X would continue to pick up more iOS-themed design cues, new capabilities like AirDrop compatibility between Macs and iOS devices, automatic tethering, iMessage integration and the ability to take phone and make phone calls via your iPhone on the Mac make the attraction of going all-Apple all the more enticing. iCloud is playing an increasingly integral role in Apple's plans, and the addition of iCloud Drive only serves to further strengthen Apple's software and hardware product portfolio.
HealthKit and HomeKit extend the iOS platform and iOS devices further into people's lives, making the iPhone more useful and indispensable than ever in improving the quality of our digital lifestyles. Each of these platforms have tremendous potential, and given the massive success of Apple's other MFI programs, it seems highly likely that third-party software and hardware developers will be very keen to get on board increasing the 'stickiness' of the platform. Both third-party hardware and software developers will be able to take advantage of over 4,000 brand new APIs in iOS 8 that will serve to drive third-party innovation further than ever before. When users are looking for the best accessories and devices to complement their smartphones, the iPhone third-party accessory ecosystem will only look even more appealing than it already does. The new levels of integration between iOS devices and the Mac will also serve to make Mac users who own an Android phone to strongly consider switching back to the iPhone. The only piece of the puzzle that is missing is an iPhone with a larger display, which when combined with all the advancements in Mac OS X and iOS 8 make Apple's value proposition compelling.
Among the slew of software announcements Apple made in its two-hour long presentation included an upgraded Notification Center in Mac OS X that now incorporates widgets, Spotlight enhancements with web searches notably powered by Microsoft's Bing, massive speed improvements to Safari along with other tweaks. Major improvements coming in iOS 8 include a hands-free, voice-activated Siri, predictive typing functionality called QuickType, actionable Notifications, Messages upgrades include self-destructing messages along with asynchronous audio and video functions with an all-new Photos app with highly sophisticated, but simple to use photo enhancement features. Apple is also making extensibility a major feature of iOS 8 allowing developers to let their apps (with user permission) interact with other apps. This will, for example, allow you to access photo filters from your favorite apps within the Photo app. A feature that I have long been waiting for, thanks to extensibility in iOS 8, is the ability for users to select third-part keyboard extensions. A range of other features were also added to iOS 8 that Apple didn't highlight yesterday, including Wi-Fi calling and battery usage meters by app among others, but leave no doubt that it is wholly committed to driving growth through ongoing innovation.
As has been previously highlighted, Apple profit share from the mobile market far outweighs its percentage share as it operates in the high-profit, high-end segment of the market. Apple highlighted a number of impressive stats and facts that show just how healthy the iOS platform is. While Macs defied the downward slide in PC industry trends by seeing an uptick in sales of 12 percent, and now enjoys and installed user base comprising of 80 million Macs, this is nothing compared with the staggering success of iOS device sales since 2007. There are now over 800 million iOS users with 90 percent of the install base running iOS 7. This compares with just 9 percent adoption of Android 4.4 KitKat. As Apple was only too happy to point out, not only does this make iOS more attractive for developers, but it is also indicative of the fact that the minority of Android users enjoy the latest features, or the latest security enhancements. Furthermore, 98 percent of the Fortune 500 companies now uses iOS devices.
The speed of software development revealed at WWDC 2014 shows that, under the leadership of Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple is doing anything but stagnating. Although hardware announcements have been relatively thin so far in 2014, the stunning Mac Pro that finally landed in late 2013 is a perfect illustration of Apple's ongoing commitment to continually pushing the envelope of hardware design as well. Sure, it would have been great if Apple had released a larger iPhone last year, which seems to be one area where Apple naysayers seem to have gained some traction. However, Tim Cook has never ruled out building an iPhone with a larger screen. The combination of display technology, chip technology and battery technology had to meet Apple's expectations before it committed to such a device. Even though there were no new hardware announcements at WWDC 14, it is likely that the wait will soon be over when both Mac OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 launch this fall.
If Samsung and Google felt at all like they have won the mobile war because of the high rate of adoption of Android, they might be thinking again after this powerhouse display of Apple's software development skills. Apple has demonstrated that it will not yield on any front. It has clearly committed all of its available resources to move the company forward in a way that I suspect would have made the late and great Steve Jobs extremely proud. As Jobs said when resigning as CEO in 2011, "I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it." After seeing Apple's outstanding WWDC 2014 Keynote, I have absolutely no doubt that Steve Jobs was right.
By Sanjiv Sathiah