I followed the Apple WWDC 2011 conference yesterday via the live blogging service of Engadget and Twitter (wasn’t in SF at the time). You can find an overview of all things announced here. The expectations were high upfront. Everyone seems to expect no less than a new miracle from Steve Jobs and his company. I thought it was pretty amazing that he took the stand, that’s a miracle in itself and it never ceases to amaze me that he is still going strong despite the disease he is fighting.
Wrt the message, I don’t think anyone heard real miracles. The tech blogs predicted most of the stuff announced and Apple didn’t announce any new hardware. Because of this it seems the Tech press is less impressed. I guess it takes an announcement of the size of the iPhone or iPad to get the crowd excited. I am betting that Apple will not be able to reach that excitement in the coming years as the iPhone was such a radical shift in mobile thinking. You don’t shake up markets like that every year. Everything done after that is logical evolution, and certainly not the revolution the iPhone and iOS brought.
Still, Apple is a company that continuously impresses everyone and I believe it has to do with a uniqueness that separates Apple from everyone else. It isn’t just their exceptional design, creativity or feel for simplicity. It seems to me that Apple is one of a very few companies that successfully integrated development of beautiful and unique hardware with powerful and well designed software. The WWDC 2011 keynote seems like a software catch up to me. After delivering the iPhone and the iPad to the world it was now time to upgrade iOS and Lion and show the world how to integrate all that slick hardware with a unique software platform and the iCloud.
While the tech press may not be super-duper impressed, pampered with cool technology as they are, I feel Apple delivered a platform that integrates hardware, software and services (apps) exceptionally well. It is an amazing accomplishment that will trigger developers to go the extra mile and come up with new innovations no one had thought of before.
There was also some sentiment about Apple taking developers out of business by integrating core functionality from their apps directly into iOS. I doubt any of them were really surprised by the move. Apple has made iOS more complete by this integration and it makes sense to do so. It sucks if it means your app may go out of business, but from Apple’s point of view it is a logical step.
There was the inevitable comparison with Google’s Android (Apple’s new notification center is just like Android’s), although Gruber notes that the biggest difference between Apple and Google is that Apple has chosen the path fo native apps while Google has chosen the browser to be the center of the earth. It sounds like Gruber feels Apple has made the right choice (he definitely likes Apple over Google). I feel that the choice between native and browser will diminish over time. iOS 5 is not the competitive advantage that Apple hold over Google.
The real competitive advantage is that Apple has a complete, deeply integrated ecology that encompasses both hardware, software, services (apps) and a huge, profitable market that currently puts them on top of everyone else.
I would still not rule out Google, nor Android, simply because at some point Android will overtake iOS in numbers, not by a small bit, but by a huge factor. Scale always has a way to attract innovation, despite the fact that Android is not half as complete as iOS. It lacks great hardware, super software and a (for developers) profitable market. But scale makes up for a lot of these things, and Android is bound to win the scale game. And that is great news. Apple might not have gone this far, if it didn’t feel the heat of Android.
Funny enough, Microsoft may have understood this even a little better than Google and devised a strategy that involves both hardware (Nokia) and software (WP7). I somehow don’t believe they will pull it off though. It’s too late. Nokia doesn’t have the sexiest hardware anymore, and I doubt that they will catch up anymore. They will build a cool platform together but they might just lose the scale game.
Jobs, indirectly, tells the world that his platform is so much better than Google’s, and because he does that, consumers will profit. Let Apple and Google fight each other in Mobile, and we will all benefit.
For me and my company Zwapp the keynote yesterday was good news. A new platform with new opportunities arises. I’ve already claimed a few domain names because yesterday’s keynote immediately triggered a creative process with me, showing us new opportunities to make a difference. We’ll be building cool stuff on iOS 5 but I can already say that Android will not be forgotten.
Way to go Apple!