What do Apple's WWDC announcements tell us about the future?
Honestly, not much! But there was one thing worth noting from AppleFest 2015. It's about privacy and intelligence and stakes out the battleground for devices of the future.
Amid the mostly polished keynote at Apple's annual developerfest yesterday, many of the announcements were catch-ups or clean-ups and couldn't be classified as breakthrough by any stretch. Mac OS X and iOS are both fairly mature products so we are now mostly in the polish phase rather than bringing bold new experiences. But there's still something to be learned from what Apple said, and didn't say, and their approach to Proactive Assistance and data privacy is the key.
In the category of catch up and clean up, we saw Apple Music (Spotify don't have anything much to sweat about there; Apple is at least 2 years late to the streaming party and doesn't seem to have brought anything very exciting here), a fresher Apple Maps (public transport just like Google has had for ages!), better Siri (now 40% more accurate speech recognition), better Notes (watch out Evernote), and Proactive Assistant, the response to Google Now.
To me, it was this announcement of Proactive Assistant that said the most about what's next in computing. Expect a philosophical battle about who owns your data. Is it you? Or is it the company that takes the trouble to collect it? Google and Facebook would argue the latter. The ground Apple is staking out with their approach to Proactivity and Intelligence is the former.
The old adage goes that if the product is free, then you are the product. Depending on who you talk to it seems that Google and Facebook make between $50 and $200 a year from selling your data and information. The question that begs is simple - who should be getting paid for that data? And as a follow on - do you feel that you have received suitable recompense for your data in the form of those "free" services you have had access to? Is it a good quid pro quo? The answer varies by person and may be, "yes, absolutely!" Or you may be surprised to learn just how much Google, Facebook and others are making from tracking your every move and monetizing targeted access to advertisers.
We are going to see companies divide themselves into those that make money from your data, and those that don't. To be fair to Facebook, people were clear in survey after survey that they wouldn't pay for the service and those server farms don't come cheap, so they had to monetize your Facebook page somehow. But the business model lines are now more clearly drawn than ever. And consumers will want to consider a company's approach to privacy and data monetization before they engage with them. Always better to go in eyes wide open.
Apple is promising they don't mine cloud email or contacts to learn about you. They have architected their intelligence and Proactive Assistant service so that all information is retained locally on the device. These insights are anonymous and not associated with an Apple ID. Apple were very explicit about the service being totally under user control.
So, while WWDC didn't reveal much of what's next, we did see clear battle lines being drawn and the continued evolution in what I believe will be the next paradigm in device user interfaces...the shift away from apps and typed search towards personal assistants and natural language. But that's a conversation for another time. :)