There are two constants in June: seeing Lebron James in the NBA finals and Apple hosting a massive conference for developers. While the former may fade eventually, the latter is showing no signs of slowing down. WWDC is an annual event that sees nearly 6,000 attendees fall upon the shores of California to witness advancements in Apple software along with valuable time with Apple engineers. What’s often lost during this event is the business ju-jitsu played by the Cupertino collective to further their agenda.
Beneath the layers of overt benefits, such as headline-stealing press, strengthening partner-manufacturer relations, and reassuring its most loyal fanbase, Apple subtly reminds everyone how it’ll maintain such high customer satisfaction ratings and in turn, continue to own mobile profits. While innovative hardware that oozes industrial design may play a huge factor, it’s all moot without powerful software. More than any smartphone manufacturer, Apple seems to understand that the marriage between hardware and software is critical to success in the marketplace. That’s why over the years, WWDC has become an event with no hardware announcements. All software. All week. It’s this type of laser focus that puts them in a unique position. One that will stave off margin-seeking competitors.
The methodical and iterative approach to mobile software is something that Apple has pioneered and continues to dominate from a marketing standpoint
Apple will own mobile profits for the foreseeable future due to its continued investment in software differentiation, focus on privacy, and ubiquity along product categories. The attention on creating a predictable and delightful experience is something that doesn’t go unnoticed by the average consumer. The methodical and iterative approach to mobile software is something that Apple has pioneered and continues to dominate from a marketing standpoint. As this fact becomes more and more common knowledge, coupled with improving feature sets, it becomes more and more obvious why consumers continue to choose Apple.
Apple is promising more and more polish delivered in a manner that will charm beginners and power users alike
If you go back and watch the keynote that kicked off WWDC, you’ll see Apple touting a multitude of features that looks to improve upon a solid foundation. Whether it was the long-overdue Grouped Notifications or the surprise of highly-customizable Memoji, Apple is promising more and more polish delivered in a manner that will charm beginners and power users alike. And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: a lot of these software improvements are not firsts in the industry. However, as seen with the inclusion of Copy-and-Paste back in 2003, Apple will learn from competitors, plan meticulously, and execute industry trends in a way that aligns with their vision. The end result being an experience that is familiar and fresh at the same time.
It’s now incredibly sexy to talk about how secure your platform is
More than ever before, privacy is becoming a tentpole feature in mobile technology. With the news of phishing, hacking, and social engineering now a mainstream subject, it’s now incredibly sexy to talk about how secure your platform is. This is something that Apple had doubled down years ago and continued to showcase at their keynote earlier this month. It was especially evident during the showcase of Siri Shortcuts, a new feature that gives users the onus of making their mobile voice assistant smarter. Simply put, developers can include indicators to create voice commands for in-app features. Users can then use the Shortcuts app to string commands together and have your iPhone or iPad perform complex tasks with a personalized voice command. For example, I may see a future where my lights go Soviet red, my tv turns on, and Rocky IV begins playing on my Apple TV with the simple command of, “Hey Siri, it’s Drago time!”
All jokes aside, Apple has decided to outsource the voice smarts to its end user. Where Google Voice Assistant looks to collect as much information and guess the best executable action, Siri is expecting you to tell it how to handle complex permutations. My early thoughts? I don’t see my parents using it (pre-retirees), my wife may not feel compelled to use it (average consumer), and I will probably devour it (technology enthusiast). We will have to wait and see how this is actually received on the market. But the adoption of this mythology proves to us that Apple will not sacrifice user privacy for novel features. Instead, they will opt for different, albeit unproven, approach that aims to deliver a similar user experience.
It’s the attention to detail that allows Apple to lock-in so many users and in a way where they’re happy to do so
I’ll mention that word again: delight. It’s that feeling you get when open your MacBook and your Apple Watch unlocks it. Or when you can AirDrop that picture you edited from your iPhone to your MacBook. Or when you can stay up-to-date with you entirely unnecessary group chat on just about any Apple device with a screen. These are the instances that cannot, at the moment, be replicated in full by competitors. And it’s that attention to detail that allows Apple to lock-in so many users and in a way where they’re happy to do so. People generally don’t like change and enjoy when software experiences are ubiquitous. Apple knows this, and exploits in a way that not just surprises, but is also coupled with sensory stiumaltion in the form of satisfying beeps and bumps. It's ASMR on another level.
The tease of allowing developers to soon port their iOS apps to macOS in the coming years will open the floodgates to more predictable software experiences that will further user lock-in and establish Apple’s belief in consistency. And once again, this is something that is incredibly hard for competitors such as Samsung and Google to replicate. As a result, you’ll still see some staggering numbers come Fall/Winter 2018 as users primarily choose specs+software over specs+specs.
This shouldn’t be a surprise anymore
Apple’s ability to incrementally differentiate their core operating systems, maintain a commitment to user privacy, and dedication to feature parity across devices will allow them to remain market leaders with respect to mobile profits. This shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. Yet, we continue to see people astounded that Apple continues to put up record-breaking financials. Many critics still believe that cutting-edge hardware features, stolen design cues, and a fancy camera will somehow shift profits away from Cupertino. Spoiler alert: it ain’t that simple.
Along with the economics of having an incredibly vertical supply chain, the inclusion of owning and supplying a unique software experience will only add to those economics. You’re not paying licenses, you own the damn thing. You’re not looking for direction, you define the damn thing. You’re not waiting for updates, you guessed it, you do the damn thing. Having this type of control gives you leverage as a supplier. As long as Apple continues to deliver on their promises for the most part, people will choose delight. As people continue to do so in hordes, the economics will favour those that have the most control. And at the moment, Apple seems to be holding a trump card.