Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference is set to kick off in about 10 days in San Francisco. If you’d like to watch the clock count down you can click here, compliments of Apple, of course.
As with all things involving Apple, the upcoming development conference has its share of buzz going into it. For instance, CBS CEO Les Moonves met with Apple last week about a proposed TV deal. He then went on to note to a crowd at Re/code's annual conference the likelihood of an upcoming deal.
“We will probably do a deal with Apple TV," said Moonves, who noted that high cost packages with hundreds of channels are becoming a less viable model.
As are the traditional television network models.
Apple’s Operations Chief, Jeff Williams, also spun up some buzz this week, noting that native apps will soon arrive on the Apple Watch. Williams also referred to the car, tantalizingly, as “the ultimate mobile device."
So what will be the next big thing out of the world’s leading next big thing factory?
While with Apple it is always hard to know - and surprises will surely abound as they have a reputation to live up to in Cupertino - it looks like this year it will be all about the ecosystem.
MPD CEO Karen Webster wrote about Apple and payments, the day after the world got its first look at Apple Pay, saying that Apple was “creating an ecosystem that stimulates innovation and strengthens the power of its own walled garden.”
Webster further noted that Apple did not seem intent on innovating “payment in its purest sense,” based on its embrace of NFC and the digitization of a four-party payments model that has defined payments for the last six decades.
But, Webster noted, that doesn’t mean that Apple isn’t after innovation.
“It appears that Apple did intend, however, to reinvent the experience of buying,” Webster noted. "We’ve seen hints of it already as making a payment with Apple Pay in a physical store doesn’t require popping open an app to activate the card. This is just the tip of a very deep iceberg. Expect that experience on steroids …”
If recent reports are true - it looks like WWDC may be chance for the watching world to get a look at what the rest of some of that iceberg looks like.
Apple Gets “Proactive”
Apple, it seems, is looking to compete more directly with Google through the launch of a years-old, super-secret initiative codenamed “Proactive.”
Proactive is the next step forward of iOS’s Spotlight search feature, which looks to tie together various pieces of the iOS experience — Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook and some third-party apps — to upgrade the user experience on their iPhone in a manner roughly analogous to the service Google Now provides for Android devices. Proactive is designed to study and learn its owner’s device and data usage habits such that it can provide timely information to said user.
Proactive is an evolution of iOS’s Spotlight search feature, updated and improved via Apple’s acquisition of personal assistant app Cue in 2013. Siri, of course, is Apple’s in-house virtual personal assistant - but, Cue (and now Apple’s) was a much more complete system.
Going forward, it will act as a new layer within Apple’s operating system that will replace the Spotlight pulldown menu and appear instead to the left of an iPhone’s home screen. According to reports, the Proactive screen will offer users a dedicated search bar and a newly designed user interface which is populated with data pulled from three main areas on the phone’s operating system:
So, a user with a flight scheduled and a boarding pass in his or her Passbook would get a reminder in their Proactive screen that would allow them to access their boarding pass. Proactive would also take the user's current location to tell them how long it will take to drive to the airport.
But Proactive will also be “watching” the activities their users don’t schedule. That will apply to esoteric routines — for example, users who usually call their mother on Sunday afternoons will get a “Call Mom” message on Sunday afternoons. It will also apply to general human routines — such as providing helpful suggestions for nearby restaurants around lunchtime.
Subtly Guiding The Buying Experience
Any consumer that has ever been on the fence about where to go shopping will wonder no more with its newly rebuilt Points of Interest (POI) system for the iOS Apple Maps application. Sources indicate that Apple explored new or expanded deals with Foursquare, Yelp, and Nokia’s HERE when considering the overhaul - but ultimately decided to build its own new POI system for Proactive.
Browse Around Me is reportedly said to be the highly sought-out feature for the augmented Apple Maps. The feature will allow an iPhone owner to point a camera toward a particular business or area to learn about what’s inside (sales, menu items, business descriptions). However, 9to5Mac indicates that this may be a more advanced use than Apple is likely to rollout for iOS 9 - and that this first version might instead simply show POI on an overhead map that are more tailored to previous searches and user preferences.
Interestingly, the reports also indicate that there was at least some consideration given to
highlighting POI that support Apple Pay transactions. However, this feature was canceled during development, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.
Protecting Privacy With "Breadcrumbs"
Some sources report that Apple is also preparing to allow developers to integrate their applications into both iOS’s search results and Siri. Currently, Apple has a full Siri API that lets Siri access third-party app content, but company insiders say that the version for developers will likely be a scaled-down version codenamed “Breadcrumbs.”
That choice comes from a concern that Siri could become “confused” by human usage and accidentally send personal data to the wrong third-party apps.
“Apple’s talk about user-privacy is not marketing, it is core to [Apple’s] product development process," said an unidentified source, according to 9to5Mac.
Salivating yet? Well, don’t get too excited. 9to5Mac’s sources say that although Apple may announce some version of these ideas, Apple has not yet “greenlighted” the Proactive suite in its fully decked-out form. Some are speculating that they will rollout a simpler version of many of these improvements, and step it up from there.
But even the shape of things to come in this case is useful, as it indicates exactly how high Apple is ready to build the walls around its garden. Remember, Apple’s goal at the end of the day is to move devices out the door - and it seems that all of these enhancements are part of the plan to enable Apple owners to make most aspects of adult life — paying, shopping, browsing, scheduling, eating — easily managed with a few finger swipes on their hardware and within their ecosystem of course.
While, of course, taking a few dollars away from its rivals in Mountain View. The Proactive initiative was partially designed to reduce iOS’s search reliance on Google, which it started by making Bing the search engine for Spotlight (which Proactive is replacing) on iOS 8 and beyond.
Sources say that Apple’s internal iOS usage metrics indicate that Google clicks have indeed fallen since iOS 8’s release last fall.
Steve Jobs famously said “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
It’s not quite a thermonuclear war yet – and we’ll see whether what comes out of WWDC starts to move it in that direction.
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