Every Apple event follows a set pattern when it comes to media coverage:
– First, speculation and rumours about what will be announced with some leaked images if there are hardware announcements expected
– post the event, a report card of what was announced. The analysis will rarely be balanced with Apple fan sites going over the top while non-Apple fan sites will trash everything
– list of features which were copied from elsewhere will be made
– even when the event is a developer conference, someone will invariably rue the fact that no consumer facing device was announced
– Apple is also expected to announce a never-seen-before, path-breaking, revolutionary device at every event
– Pundits will write eulogies about the brand wondering why Apple hasn’t launched anything new since the iPhone; comparisons to other companies who are far ahead in the race to make a toe-ring which can make coffee will be made
In the midst of all this, Apple executives continue doing what they think is best for the brand and their consumers. Of course they make mistakes while going about this but they seem to have a remarkable ability to shut out the noise of free advice. Does it mean that they don’t ‘listen’ to the market? I think not. Recent product launches (like the iPhone SE) and proposed plans for potential markets like China & India indicate otherwise. The WWDC event of June 13, was in a way a reflection of all this. To me these were the highlights:
Continuity: the other day I happened to use the 1st generation iPad (2010 version) running iOS 5 (released in 2011). I also use an iPad Air running iOS 9. I was struck how ‘similar yet so different’ the two operating systems and the devices were. Similarly having been a Mac user from the OS 9 days to OS X El Capitan, I can sense the benefit of maintaining continuity yet adding layers of newness every once in a while. With iOS 10 and macOS too this philosophy was on display at the WWDC. The attempt seems to be aimed at providing a familiar-yet-different experience to Apple’s consumers so that the incentive to stay within the ecosystem is high.
New paths: each of the four operating systems – watchOS, tvOS, macOS and iOS are now platforms in their own right, which developers can advantage of is an indication of the ‘new paths’. The integration between devices and platforms has always been Apple’s strengths; the interaction with multiple devices – from watches to phones to iOT adds a new dimension now. If one were to believe news reports about the future play in cars, the ‘continuity with newness’ is even more apparent.
Focus: unlike most other brands in the mobility space, Apple is laser-focused on delivering the brand experience to a certain group or mindset – not everyone. As marketing pundits say, ‘everyone’ is not a target audience. Apple attracts a certain kind who value a premium experience and are willing to pay extra for it. It is not the opposite of ‘value for money’ as is mistakenly perceived. Apple’s core audience believe they get great value for the money spent. Apps like Ulysses (which won an Apple Design Award) which charge a hefty premium on both the Mac and iOS platforms are not meant for everyone. But those opting for such willingly pay the premium. This sharp focus on a premium audience (along with ideas like app subscriptions) augurs well for the developer community, who were the audience at WWDC.