Going Into WWDC: The Good, The Bad And The Kinda Hard To Say

In about three days the countdown clock on Apple’s website will run all the way down to zero and the world’s biggest company will kick off its annual developers conference in San Francisco. Google's I/O conference was last week and (paired with Microsoft) served a bit like Apple’s opening act as it gave the world at large a glimpse of what the world’s most successful search firm brings to the table in terms of Android Pay, its App Store, Google Now (Google’s personal assistant) and the Internet of Things - among many other contributions.

Earlier this week the world got Apple’s response - albeit in a very nuanced way - as Apple tried to get the developer base and the consumer community at large fired up for its WWDC.

“We don't think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we're storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices," Apple CEO Tim Cook noted in a speech at EPIC's Champions of Freedom event earlier this week.

“Our privacy is being attacked on multiple fronts," Cook said. "I’m talking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling consumers into a false sense of complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can about you and trying to monetize it.”

OK, so maybe not so nuanced after all.

But in the you-can-spin-anything-you want-any-way-you-want category, Team Google’s point of view is that Cook was referring to Facebook.

Whatever his specific target, Cook made Apple’s position on data usage clear.

“We think that’s wrong,” Cook continued. “That is not the kind of company we want to be.”

Now it does at least bear mentioning that the moral high ground on data mining is certainly easier to take when one’s revenue stream is based on hardware sales and not advertising revenue. Nonetheless, Cook has drawn his line in the sand going into WWDC — affirming that Apple is not interested in getting to know all of a consumer’s personal details so that it can sell those digital details to the highest bidder.

Going into the WWDC, the world got a few glimpses of what might be “next.” Some of what’s next will likely be related to the ongoing victory lap that the Apple Watch is taking in the wearables category, perhaps the not so good, like the apparent stall in Apple’s march to disrupt cable, and perhaps the still frustratingly inconclusive: Apple Pay.

The Good - The Apple Watch

The watch officially dropped (for some) in April, though many of even the earliest orderers have been receiving their watches for the first time this week. And it seems the wearable has successfully translated all the months of hype into a successful product launch. Though Apple has not released any official sales figures for the watch yet, Cook affirmed Apple’s satisfaction with its performance in the market so far.

“We couldn’t be happier about how things are going,” Cook noted.

And while developers seemed to be a little hesitant to develop for the watch without some actual proof that consumer hunger for wearable tech is actually a thing — as opposed to a Silicon Valley mass hallucination about what regular people want from their personal tech <<cough>>Google Glass<<cough>> — developers are warming up, and are expected to do so even more after next week’s developers conference.

Among the most anticipated release is an updated developer kit for the watch — a kit which will allow programmers to build the Apple Watch its own native apps. The new developer tools will also allow for the creation of smarter apps that will gain deep access to the watch’s heart-rate and motion sensors, among other components.

“I think it’s going to make watch apps much more interesting, just because you get access to so much more stuff,” Brian Mueller, the developer of Carrot, a suite of productivity apps, told The New York Times. “Right now, watch apps are sort of another feature to an iPhone app.”

The Bad - Apple TV

While time-keeping enthusiasts will probably enjoy next week’s developers conference with all the enthusiasm of a kid at an amusement park, TV buffs who were hoping to get a glimpse at how Apple was going to change their entertainment experience with Apple TV are going to have to wait a little bit longer.

Though Apple TV was supposed to get its relaunch coming out party next week, it looks like that won’t be happening. Apple has unexpectedly decided that a delay is in order since the product is not so much ready for public consumption yet.

And while one may wonder what cosmic karma is being jeopardized since Apple rarely (ever?) delays anything, according to The New York Times' reporting on the matter, the issue at hand is not on the tech side — it is on the content side.

Just a minor detail.

The new model will allow iPhone and iPad owners access to a streamlined channel package that’s cheaper than what cable companies are currently offering.

The delay on the content side is now understandable.

Media executives have been flirting with Apple - notably CBS lately - but a whole mess of content providers are still working out deals with Apple on price, rights and technology issues, according to people briefed on the discussions.

Moreover, those unnamed content owners also report being a ways off from making a deal with Apple. They seem apparently much less excited to give Apple a bite from their revenue streams than music company executives or card networks/issuers are.

The Rather Inconclusive - Apple Pay

Another week, another group of people studying Apple Pay usage.

This week’s contestant in our recurring data beauty pageant is Kantar. Their latest Worldpanel ComTech survey indicates that only about 13 percent of potential Apple Pay users are actually using the service (or have used it at all). Kantar surveyed 20,000 U.S. consumers, 3,800 of whom owned an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus — the only smartphones that support Apple Pay.

The poll also found that only about 11 percent intended to use Apple Pay going forward.

The report also found some interesting minor notes. Men seem to slightly prefer the service to women (59 percent of Apple Pay users were men, 55 percent of whom intended to use it in the future), and younger consumers preferred it to older ones.

And though only 13 percent of consumers trying the product seems to be a less than encouraging result for Apple, not everyone sees it that way.

"My sense was that they were positive numbers for Apple," Kantar’s Chief of Research Carolina Milanesi said. "If you compare it to the 7 percent of the Android side that is four years in and has a much broader availability of handsets that are compatible with NFC, then that 13 percent is looking pretty encouraging."

Kantar’s numbers are very close to figures put out by PYMNTS/InfoScout earlier this year that reflected that about 15 percent of eligible Apple Phone users had used the service at least once (though we also further found that 6 percent of those users, or .9 percent of total iPhone 6 owners, were frequent users).

Reports suggest that Apple Pay will get a loyalty theme update at WWDC next week. There has also been some positive feedback about using Apple Pay through the watch - with one particularly excited reporter noting that Apple Pay was in fact that “killer feature” for use on the Apple Watch.

“Paying for things has honestly never been faster or more satisfying,” Business Insider's Dave Smith wrote.

High praise.

But then, tech reporters are an excitable group who are inclined to react positively to Apple. The real question next week is, will Apple be able to win the hearts and minds of developers in specific, and consumers more broadly by talking those developers into building the latest and greatest in app technology?

We’ll have more on how it all shakes out - next week.



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