Apple WWDC: No one is sparedBy : Pratima Harigunani |June 14, 2016 0
SAN FRANCISCO: When people wait with bated breath for every word out of the keynote podium, and when the countdown is built up to sound like a who-dunnit-thriller, you know it’s an Apple WWDC conference and not an F8 or an I/O.
But this time, more than ever, the familiarity stroke sprung out of nowhere and surprised many. Or didn’t surprise many – like the ones who had been speculating that Apple needs to catch up to everyone around. That ‘everyone’, surprisingly, also includes Uber, Spotify, messaging apps and of course, AI and VR innovatorsapart from the Googles and Facebooks of the valley.
Yes, Apple has brought a $1 billion stake in ride-sharing app Didi locking its horns with Uber with a renewed force.
Yes, Apple has given Siri more sharp elbows than ever to tackle Cortana.
Yes, Apple is raising the crescendo in music and messaging to take on well-entrenched incumbents.
Yes, Apple is not just about what’s up its sleeve. It has now rolled up its sleeves and taking competition head-on, and from every direction.
Let’ start with the ladies first.
At the Google I/0, we saw Google Assistant AI and its intent to stride into the smarter messaging and smart homes’ areas as well as opening to developers. Facebook has also been enthusiastic about its AI and robot plans.
So it should have been anyone’s guess that Apple will up its ante in this field. Seems like Siri is a good starting point. The voice assistant has been opened to third-party developers (Like Google) and there are plans of toning up its relevance with AI too. Ability to scan Apple TV for genre-specific movies, for booking rides, making payments via Square Cash, for aligning with Mac and the apps show that the new Siri would be more than a nose job.
Apple also announced the Home app to bolster integration with many devices in the smart-home terrain. That’s where Siri would also jump into action, probably starting your coffee-machine or geyser when you wish her ‘Good Morning’. This is in the same zone as Google’s voice-activated speaker powered by AI or Echo by Amazon which is again a voice-activated, AI-powered device.
What’s interesting though is how Siri would make Cortana tap out in the Voice-assistant voice-off. Apple did try to punch Microsoft in the productivity zone here when it showed off macOS Sierra, and an integrated Siri as one of its star features.
Not music to everyone’s ears?
Apple Spots Music
Aesthetics, playlists, personalized magic and curation has been the trumpet song for Apple this time at WWDC as it presents the Apple Music platform.
Incidentally, the efforts to offer leaner lines, better interfaces, ‘For You’ playlists, daily curated ‘Discovery Mix’ (Newsflash: Spotify has a Discover weekly feature), upgrades to Radio and larger fonts, make you wonder if Spotify would take off its ear plugs and pay attention.
Apple Music not only includes lyrics from here on but the platform blends in with Apple’s core text messaging service, iMessage. Does it swipe Taylor Swift left or not is not the question, the question is how intimidating would the 15 million subscriber muscle be to the 30 million-and-counting first-entrant Spotify and about-to-arrive rivals like Amazon? Will they get the message?
Facebook and Snapchat. Someone’s gatecrashing your party
Messaging is not the barebones thing anymore. It’s all about features, real-time stiff, emojis and what not. Apple could have got the memo on that now as we see how its iMessage is trying to bring in a refreshing look and feel all about with features like a drawer for apps, payment via text (like Snapcash, Venmo and Facebook’s messenger), room and invisible ink for sending obscure messages (again reminds you of Snapchat) and more.
Its new mobile operating system, iOS 10 has added voicemail transcription (err, already there on Google Voice).
Now Apple is adding so many strings to its bow that this is pretty apparent that right from guys up its alley like Google, Amazon or Facebook to new areas like automotives, VR, machine learning and AI; Apple has started striking competition with a new fury.
If Apple TV can help you to look for channels with voice commands, you know that’s similar to what Amazon tried with its voice-activated Alexa speaker.
If iPhone’s iOS operating system is pouring in stickers, emojis, drawings and animations to photos for messaging, you think of Facebook and Snapchat with a Déjà vu.
If the maps app is now being unbolted for third-party developers, car-navigation features are getting new upgrades, you know Apple wants to get out of the rear-view mirrors of Uber and Google Maps.
To sum it up simply, Apple is giving an impression that it is ready for a 360 degree sparring when it comes to competition. But would it be able to take the speed of innovation (and open-ness about future plans that other players emit) right on its chin?
Because dear Apple, that’s one corner where a knock-out usually happens.