My colleague Ted Schadler, who attended Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco, has nicely summarized Apple's Tour De Force and What It Means For CIOs.
Here are my thoughts on what Apple's announcements mean for product strategists and brands willing to interact with consumers:
- Apple's ecosystem has enabled the emergence of the first wave of consumer apps. Despite Google's Android traction, with about 900,000 Android devices' activations per day, Apple's statistics shared today clearly demonstrate the huge opportunity to interact with end users: More than 365 million iOS devices sold to end March 2012, 125 million iCloud users, 650k apps among which 225k that are iPad-specific, and more than 30 billion apps downloaded since the launch of Apple's App Store. Apple has already paid out $5 billion to developers since July 2008. While the figure looks impressive, Apple kept a mere $2.1 billion — a very small percentage of Apple’s total revenues over the period. Reality is that, for now, game developers are the ones who make the most money out of apps. Most apps from consumer-facing companies are free. Ad-funded business models are gaining traction, thanks to the growth of mobile ad money, but marketers are always slower to anticipate evolution of consumer behaviors. However, they will start realizing that time spent by consumers on apps (a key metric to look at moving forward as a potential indication of client engagement) is increasing dramatically and will open up new opportunities for them to interact with consumers. This requires companies to get ready for the second wave of apps and really add value to consumers. Indeed, the first generation of apps — aside from gaming apps and mobile social networks— rarely made the most of the unique attributes of the mobile platform and rarely integrated with back-end systems. The market is poised for a second wave of consumer apps that are more personalized and contextual.
- The 200 new features available on iOS6 will facilitate the transition toward the second generation of apps. A couple of months ago, Forrester stated that Siri would be a powerful harbinger of the future use of mobile devices — not just the power of voice but, more importantly, the ability to contextualize a statement or request. We're starting to see this happening with Siri's ability to launch apps or with Siri's integration with Yelp (Google acquired Zagat recently) and OpenTable for restaurant reviews and reservations. Another example of new opportunities to develop better product experiences is Facebook's integration into iOS6. This integration is quite deep. This is not just about Facebook contacts but also the fact that events and birthdays can also sync with the calendar. The ability to "like" apps will also facilitate social app discovery. Another example is Apple's new Passbook app that collects all of your loyalty cards, ticket information, and other information in one place for easy access. Such an app is location-enabled, so it knows what to show based on where you are. This app is a first step into a digital wallet, and the next iteration of the app could well be the integration with the 400 million credit cards that Apple now has on file. Last but not least is the launch of Apple Maps. This is not so much about generating new revenues, especially advertising, for at the end of the day, Apple iAd has never been and probably will never be a core source of revenue for Apple. This is mostly about enabling new product experiences for its own Apple branded products and for developers to launch more-convenient services on iOS devices. Indeed, location is no longer a service, like maps or navigation, but is increasingly an enabler of new product experiences. It is time to think beyond location alone but to couple this feature — which will be increasingly accurate, particularly indoors — with other data sources, such as user context and past behaviors. Mobile location becomes invisible and will increasingly be embedded into mobile products, from apps to other services.
The decision of Apple to replace Google Maps with its own mapping solution comes as a no surprise. Apple had to reduce its dependency on a competitor's solution. Apple had made a number of acquisitions in this space: Placebase (2009), Poly9 (2010), and, more recently, C3 Technologies (end 2011).* Apple considered it was in a position to launch a differentiated user-experience, more tightly integrated with its own devices and OS.
Apple Maps, Facebook's integration, and Yelp's partnership highlight one of the underlying trends of today's announcements: Apple is pulling consumers away from Google in search, local, and sharing. And, as my colleague James McQuivey summed it up recently, this platform war is also expanding into the TV space, even though Apple has not made any specific announcement on this topic yet.
* UPDATED: TomTom confirmed a data map licensing deal with Apple this morning. It is difficult to say at this stage what technologies are coming from Apple's previous technologies and what may come from TomTom/TeleAtlas. It's an interesting deal in perspective to the Nokia (Navteq)/Microsoft ecosystem. There are few details about the business model yet. An ad-based revenue sharing, coupled with a minimum licensing fee? There could be some potential synergies with TomTom's focus on the automotive space, too. What's missing in the equation (for now) is an Apple search engine in comparison to Microsoft's Bing or Google search. Will Siri play this role?