Apple hit all the right notes at its opening WWDC keynote on Monday. OS X 10.10, otherwise known as Yosemite, has some big new features; iOS 8 as well. But, more than that, Apple is focusing its attention on merging the two into a more cohesive unit, allowing users to more seamlessly transition back and forth. On the developer side, Apple is slowly becoming more open: Touch ID is now friendly to third-party apps, you can download alternative keyboards, and apps can be designed to work more deeply within iOS.
What we saw today was Apple having fun, being more playful, which was a surprise in and of itself—making jokes about weed (?!), poking fun at its executives and really catering to its huge and fervent fanbase. When we say huge, we mean 130 million new Apple customers last year alone, driving up what are some very incredible stats. iOS 7 has record adoption; so does Mavericks, which was introduced as a free upgrade last year. All is good in Apple land. We are thrilled with what was announced today, even if there wasn’t any new hardware. The company’s future looks brighter than ever.
But—and I suppose this was to be expected—Apple again failed to explore new territory, instead choosing to play it safe. Features such as Handoff, and the ability to receive and make calls on your Mac are great; nobody saw those coming. But Apple has been promising, ever since the end of last year, that it would enter new product categories, that it would really dazzle us with stuff we haven’t seen, and maybe even might not be expecting. But that didn’t happen.
It was always a stretch that the iWatch would be announced today—the device seems like an urban myth more than anything. Yet we had hope. We thought Apple might enter the wearables space with hardware of its own. To be fair, we saw a small glimpse of what might be possible with HealthKit, but we still have months to ago until Apple’s dream is fully realized—and even then we’re not sure what to expect. Can devices be made in time for this holiday season that take advantage of Apple’s new feature?
Meanwhile, Apple is very gently stepping into your house with HomeKit, which is essentially a Made for iPhone program that certifies certain devices. It sounds great, and could mean we’ll see more smart home devices in the future, or at least better ones. But it’s not exactly a new category—maybe for Apple, yes. But not for the people who already own a Nest, or any of the myriads of smart bulbs that are already available. HomeKit sounds great, and I’m glad there will be an easier way to link up your home. It’s just not a feature that’ll bring Apple fans into a hysteria.
From what Apple showed today, there’s no debating the company is in a strong position moving forward. But beyond the stuff it offers now—iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV—what else is there? How many more years will Apple be content to make devices thinner, light, better; all good things, sure, but will that be all? Apple recently said that its upcoming product portfolio is the best its ever been in 25 years, and to an extent that’s true judging by today. But consumers and investors are itching to know what kind of stuff we’ll see from the future, some cool new gadget we can try that’s not another iPhone or iPad.
Apple laid out some genuine surprises today—I didn’t expect my Mac would soon let me receive and make calls from my phone. And when I need to run out the door, I can now easily pick up right from where I left off when writing a document or building a presentation. These are some thoughtful features that make the experiences on both the desktop and mobile better for users like you and me. I’m glad Apple is making a commitment to a specific design language, and the fact that there’s a deeper relationship between the desktop and mobile makes a strong argument for own Apple devices.
But for those of us watching Apple closely, and hanging onto every comment made by Tim Cook and Co., is stuff like HealthKit and HomeKit the new product categories the company was talking about? I doubt it. I imagine there’s something really special planned for fall, and I don’t mean the iPhone 6, or even a more powerful iPad. It might be an iWatch, or maybe some fresh-take on the Apple TV. So many other companies are moving in an upward trajectory, whether it be with the new Android Wear platform, or how we’ll communicate with Oculus.
Will Apple be a part of that future, or will it continue to focus on its core product lineup, which has been around for years now? I guess we won’t find out until later this fall.