CEO Tim Cook opened Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco. The event sold out the Moscone West venue in 90 minutes, a clear indication that Apple's star is still rising rapidly. (Developers are the first to smell a slowdown in momentum and so are a good indicator of the future.)
Here are my quick impressions of what Apple's announcements mean for developers, hence for CIOs and the IT organization.
- New versions of its operating systems, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, just one year after the last upgrade. That pace of innovation coupled with the rapid adoption Apple has created with free or low-cost upgrades and App Store distribution means that most iPhones and iPads will be running the new software a few months after it ships in the fall and many existing Macs will also get it. Developers get a single market to code to (unlike the intense fragmentation and dusty versions of Android). CIOs get confidence that the latest security and features will be present.
- A significantly upgraded notebook line with faster MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros and a new Flash-based MacBook Pro with a Retina, very high definition screen. (This announcement caused the first unprompted "oooooo" from the enthusiastic developer audience.) Developers will love the powerful machine. BYO computer aficionados will be happy to have even better ultrabooks and notebooks. CIOs will wonder even louder about where HP and Dell and Microsoft are with comparable computers.
- Facebook integration into iOS 6 (similar to the Twitter integration already there), which surely will help the social network be relevant in the mobile era. This integration is very deep, at the systems level, so you can Facebook update or upload directly from key iOS and even some Mac OS X apps. Developers get the ease of Facebook identity access for their app. CIOs get more anxiety about content leaking out into public.
- More iCloud features, including documents in the cloud, photo sharing, bookmark sync between devices, and a tighter link between devices. Apple's ecosystem just got tighter, with more use of the Internet to store and sync files. Unlike Dropbox, Apple's approach is very application-centric. So you don't deal with files in a file system. You see your stuff in your app: photos in iPhoto or iOS Photo Streaming, for example. And developers get the APIs to plug into these cloud services. For CIOs, it means another cloud service to tune into and create policy to manage. You can't stop employees from using cloud services. You can help them understand what the risks are.
- A new Passbook app on iOS to store all your movie tickets, Starbucks cards, airplane boarding passes, and the like. Developers get APIs to add support for this app (which is available on the lock screen so you don't have to log into your phone or tablet to pull it up. CIOs get another service to monitor. But even more interestingly as colleague and friend Charlie Golvin points out, "This is headed towards a digital wallet." With 400 million credit cards on file, Apple's ecosystem just got a new finance building block.
- A new vector-based 3D mapping app on iOS. I'm intrigued by mapping software because it's where the physical world of mobile meets the virtual world of the Internet — a perfect blending of native app and cloud service that we call the App Internet architecture and an even more perfect example of mobile engagement, where your physical proximity meets your online services (thanks to Charlie also for this "nexus" connection). For consumers, we get a very cool turn-by-turn direction, a 3D Flyover city experience, and amazing vector-based graphics with maps. For developers, it means adding your stuff onto the map (Yelp is already there). For CIOs, it means the bar just got higher for integrating your services into the mapping app.
- A smarter Siri. Apple added more domain knowledge likes sports, food, and movies; many more languages, including Mandarin; and much deeper integration. The "Eyes Free" feature will let auto makers add a button on the steering wheel so you can talk to your phone to ask for directions. Apple announced that GM, Toyota, Honda, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, among others will support this. For developers, Siri integration is about using Siri (or Diction on the Mac OS X) to launch an app (though not to add to Siri's domain knowledge). For CIOs, Siri means that employees will expect the corporate apps you deliver to also have voice control.
I would call this a developer tour de force. But what CIOs should really focus in on is the pace of innovation: these advances come only a year after Apple's last upgrades to this already-powerful software, hardware, and ecosystem. In a world where technology is embedded in how you do business, this is an important point.