Can we stop obsessing about Apple’s iPads, TVs, and Watches and focus on what they’re really doing?
After each Apple event, people tend to fall into one of two camps — either “Apple has completely lost its mojo” or “OMG that was the best Apple announcement ever.” While its true that it may be hard to top Steve Jobs’ original iPhone announcement in terms of raw disruption factor, the fact is, the rate of innovation coming out of Apple and other companies is not only higher than ever, it’s accelerating. It’s just that we’ve grown accustomed to this— it no longer surprises us that Apple reinvents entire product categories that fundamentally alter entire industries and alters the way humans behave at a macro level, this is just business as usual in 2015 and beyond.
To better understand Apple’s direction as a company, it might help to stop focusing so much on the individual products they’re launching and instead focus on their strategy at a higher level — integrating iOS as a service throughout every aspect of human life. With the iPhone (and perhaps the Watch), Apple has checked one major item off their to-do list: integrate iOS into the mobile aspects of our lives (when we’re on the go). Where else to go from here?
Apple is now focused on weaving iOS into our homes, our cars, and our workplaces. Yesterday’s announcement follows this pattern. Most significantly, we can see that Siri will be a big part of how iOS will more deeply integrate into our lives — the iPhone’s touchscreen was a major advancement in human-computer interaction (HCI) in 2007, and conversational voice interaction is the next frontier as we head towards 2020. Making Siri the central focus of Apple TV is a smart move — clearly Apple’s plans for Apple TV extend far beyond the television screen, they intend to make Apple TV and Siri the hub of the connected home. I thought even a small detail like the beautiful animated screen savers they created for Apple TV portrayed a very Apple-esque tactic of encouraging us to start leaving our televisions on, connected to Apple TV, so that eventually we can simply talk to Siri whenever we need something, like closing the shades, turning down the temperature, or starting a pot of coffee. No doubt we’ll soon see a developer program for home appliance makers to plug into the Apple TV / Siri ecosystem.
With CarPlay and eventually an Apple Car, we’ll continue to see this evolution (Siri is a big part of CarPlay). iOS as a service will know our preferences and data, and a range of Apple products will help us do what we need to do throughout the day.
Another major frontier, the workplace, is clearly a major focus for Apple. With their recent partnerships with IBM and Cisco, along with yesterday’s announcement of the iPad Pro, Apple is clearly trying to transform the way we work. The iPad Pro, with its larger screen, greater computing power, and improved HCI (stylus and keyboard), creates a powerful platform for app developers will create serious productivity applications. Most obvious candidates are the graphic design and medical industries as they demonstrated on stage, but it’s clear that other areas such as education, retail, manufacturing, construction, and a wide range of services industries can be transformed by a combination of tablet computing and enterprise software as well.
For us Apple watchers, ironically, what’s going to happen is as Apple continues to innovate, our interactions with Apple products will become less noticeable, more seamless, more invisible. In a strange way, if Apple succeeds in its mission, Apple services will simply be there when we need them, and increasingly we can simply focus on what we need to get done, and maybe even spend less time obsessing about Apple products.