Thoughts on and after WWDC 2015

So much was announced at WWDC 2015. I don’t want to recap everything. There are plenty of sites that do that. I want to give you some high-level impressions from what I think are the most interesting announcements from today’s Keynote and Platforms State of the Union.

First above all, this truly is a new Apple, Tim Cook’s Apple. Apple is more open and diverse than ever before, and yet they are still moving with laser focus. Today, we saw two female Apple employees speak at the Keynote.

For the first time since 1997, Apple included female employees in one of its keynote presentations, with Senior Vice Presidents Jennifer Bailey and Susan Prescott.

– InternationalBusinessTimes.Com

Apple also announced that store loyalty/rewards cards are coming to Pay & Wallet (formerly Passbook). This may seem small, but this requires at least some openness to allowing third party access to one of Apple’s most holiest of holies, its customer’s data and payment information. Neverthless, I am sure Apple is permitting this in a way that respects its walled garden to the max.

Apple then announced native third party watchOS apps. This was not surprising, but the fact that third party developers can create Watch face complications is, or at least that Apple has opened up that API so soon. Apple also announced Search APIs that allow content witching third party apps to be discovered on a system search level, i.e., Spotlight.

Lastly, Apple has Opened Sourced Swift. Developers in the room went nuts. Apple will also be accepting source code contributions.

This all shows that Apple is continuing to move towards becoming more open and diverse, both as an organization and with their technology. They are more open as an organization in that they are now allowing access to their company and personnel more so than even before, and more diverse in the people they hire and present to the public. They are more open with their technologies given their increasing willingness to allow developers access to those technologies, and more diverse in the products and services they are offering. Nevertheless, Apple remains laser focused, with the Keynote only touching on four major topics: OS X, iOS, watchOS, and Apple Music.

Second, it seems lost on many people around the web that this is a developer conference and that most of what Apple announces every year at Dub Dub is for developers to get excited about. It also seems lost on people that developers are also some of Apple’s best customers and so Apple releases some purely consumer facing features so that the developers, as Apple product users, can be satisfied and get excited for using the products while they are living, and developing. Today, Apple released so many developer centric features, and from everything I saw, heard, and have read, developers are super excited. And that is one of the most important things for the keynote to have achieved.

A few of these developer focused technologies were discussed during the keynote, but the most interesting by far relates to Gaming technologies and advancements. First, Apple released a Metal API for OS X. This is huge. Macs have always seemed to be a second class citizen when it comes to gaming. This API will help change all of that. Second, Apple also announced a whole new set of tools to the existing GameKit toolbox; GameplayKit, ReplayKit, and Model I/O. These, in addition to SceneKit, SpriteKit, and Metal make up the GameKit suite of tools.

All of that, taken together with the fact that iOS runs on 64 bit architecture, that the iPad Air 2 has the A8X chip, that games in the App Store are some of the most lucrative, at least for developers, and the recent rumors from 9 to 5 mac – a most reliable source – regarding new TV hardware and a companion TVKit developer framework, tells me that Apple has serious intentions in gaming. I never really thought otherwise, but I love to keep seeing the clues and to watch them play the best of chess.

Finally, one of the biggest announcements of the keynote today was Apple Music. The response has been mixed and even funny. First off, understand that this is a very serious initiative for Apple. This is not Ping, though people love to bring that up. Apple spent $3 billion on Beats, put Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre into the public’s eye as Apple employees, and spent the last year, at least, developing this product. Second, Apple understands that “music is such an important part of our lives and our culture.” – Tim Cook, WWDC 2015 Keynote; and know that when Tim Cook says “our,” he does not just mean Apple, he means the global “our,” as in all of us on Earth. Apple learned this with the success of the iPod and the iTunes music store.

Third, you must respect that Apple is trying to create a single product that will enable a holistic and shared experience of the Art of Music. Holistic in that a consumer can experience all of the art of the musician as well as engage with the artist, and shared in that we can reclaim the pulse of mainstream music and its effect on pop culture. This shared experience is something that we had during peak radio, peak MTV, and even peak iTunes, but it is something that we don’t really have anymore.

The tagline of Music right now on the Music microsite is “All the ways you love music. All in one place.” Jimmy Iovine talked about a consumer’s current experience with music as fragmented and that Apple’s intent with Music is to “build a better ecosystem…one complete thought around music.” If you listen to the Music film, Trent Reznor, an “Apple Creative,” says three very straightforward yet powerful things regarding their intention with Music:

  1. A place where music is treated not like digital bits, but the art that it is, with a sense of respect and discovery
  2. A place that accommodates and supports the artists that make the music, not just the top tier artists, but the kids in their bedrooms too
  3. A place that provides a home for artists and a way to engage with their audiences

If you look at the music industry right now under the lens of those three things, you can see that Apple took a serious look at the problems with the current state of the industry and found the three biggest problems that they were best suited to solve and they have done an incredible job at it.

When it launches, millions of Apple device users will be prompted to experience Music and with a free 3 month trial and a $14.99 family sharing plan, the offer seems pretty enticing, especially since you can easily purchase it with Pay.

Then there is “Beats 1,” a 24/7 Global radio station hosted by real people that have likable music taste and that are respected in the music industry and copied for their authentic culture.

Then there is Music Connect, an all in one platform for artists to share exclusive content with their fans and a place for fans to engage and connect with their favorite artists. I wonder what the CMS is like for artists.

Taken together, Music will be able to create a shared music experience that has been lost since peak iTunes, with millions of users, a 24/7 global radio station pushing new and established artists, as well as setting and measuring he music pulse of the world, and finally a convenient solution to experience those artists and engage with them. Jimmy Iovine said it best when he simply said, “They feed off each other.”

Random stuff – This stuff was not super important but its worth mentioning. Apple released a new iOS app called News. What makes me really interested in this is that Facebook recently announced their own publishing tool called Instant Articles and I think there are some interesting parallels with that. Ultimately, Apple understand that media consumption is important to people’s experience of their devices and they want to control those experiences. Long term, I also see this move as a parallel to Music and Apple’s interest in being able to set and measure the pulse of our culture.

Lastly, public transit technology has been added to Maps. Most people seem to have written this off, saying Google Maps already does transit, but I think they are missing some important things. Short term, the technology that has been added is impressive; being able to see a bird’s eye view of an underground subway station as well as its entrances and exists is useful and plain awesome. Long term, Apple understands that maps are a fundamental part of the services stack that make up the user experience of their devices, thus these incremental improvements will pay dividends for years to come.

Music is one ecosystem, one complete thought around music

Music is one ecosystem, one complete thought around music