Will WWDC Calm The Apple Hysteria?
A lot has been said in the past 8 months about what Apple should or shouldn't be doing. There has been a constant fervor that Apple needs to release something new and exciting, not because their current products aren't selling, in fact they're selling more iPhones and iPads then ever before. Half of the hysteria is coming from Wall Street and market analyst whose main concern is money, powered by the mind numbing drum beat of Capitalism's constant need for continued consumption. The other half is from the ever growing tech crowd/early adopters who have an insatiable hunger for the "new". Both can never be satiated, as least for long, no matter what Apple releases.
Wall Street wants Apple's profits to continue to grow at the unprecedented numbers it has been growing for over the past decade regardless of how continually successful they are. $8 Billion in profits are shrugged at because growth has slowed at the higher end of the smartphone market and signs point to no change of that in the near future. In every other sensible measurement of success, Apple is a money making machine. Their profits in 2012 ($35-$40 Billion) where more than Google, Facebook, Amazon, Yahoo, Ebay and Microsoft COMBINED. Yet their stock has fallen over 50% in the past year and some have already began writing their obituary.
Some bleeding edge technology enthusiast are "bored" with Apple and their products. (Even if they never used them to begin with) Others say they did do something great with the iPhone but what have they done lately. They're the grandpa of the mobile OS market and newer, fresher OS's are running rings around them in the aesthetic and functionality department. While all of that may be true, the funny thing is most people aren't using or buying these OS's the technorati often bring up. Windows Phone 8 is great, yet they ownless than 5% of the smartphone market. Blackberry's new OS has some really good forward thinking features as well, yet their user base could probably fit in a stadium. The Android OS is running on millions of phones sold per week, yet more than 50% are running on a version of Android that is at least 2 years old.
Steve Jobs famously said when announcing the iPhone in 2007 that their new mobile OS was 5 years ahead of any of the competition, and he was right. But those 5 years have come and gone and there is a lot more competition in the mobile space in 2013. Thanks to Apple's head start, competitors slow to react and the difficulty of building an ecosystem they are still in a really good position entering into the 6th year of iOS. But that won't be the case for long and Apple knows this. Last year was more of a side step for iOS instead of a forward march as they took that time mainly to focus on ridding their dependence of Google (Maps). What initially could seem like a wasted year could be seen as pivotal in years to come as data increasingly becomes the hottest commodity to 21st Century companies.
Last year also saw a restructuring of Apple at the top as Scott Forstall was let go and Jony Ive took over as head of design (Human Interface) for hardware and software. Mac and iOS software now has one leader (Craig Federighi) and Eddy Cue took Siri and Maps under his Internet Software and Services department.
That's a lot of change for a company that seemed to have been running like a well oiled machine for the past decade. WWDC will be the first time we will see the product of those changes. Tim Cook already killed any hopes of new hardware being announced this summer in the earnings call last week. Cook nonchalantly hinted that Apple would have some amazing products in the Fall and 2014, also adding "an exciting new product category" was in the pipeline as well.
But hardware alone won't keep Apple at the top of the mountain forever. It's increasingly becoming clear that software and services is where the future of mobile computing is. Unfortunately the services part has been Apple achilles heel, even during Steve Jobs reign (Mobile Me).
WWDC will give Apple a platform to show their roadmap for the future of iOS as well as OSX. I don't expect sweeping changes in overall functionality or look of iOS 7. However I do expect more of the continued interface improvements iOS 6 brought last year, enhanced app interoperability, more Siri functionality and new features/software (iCloud/iRadio). Hitting all of those notes and then some, on top of whatever they have in store for OSX 10.9 should calm some of the hysteria we're seeing about Apple. Then again, Apple has reached a point where no matter what they do they'll be criticized for it. It's lonely at the top.