iOS is one of the largest and most successful platforms ever created. With a user base of 1 billion, iOS (along with Android) serves as a platform for several multi billion dollar behemoths like Uber. WWDC 2016, Apple’s annual developer conference is mostly being painted as an evolution rather than a revolution. However, there was one major theme that was evident all throughout the conference.
The theme of Apple trying to build new platforms on top of iOS.
Despite all the success of iOS, its growth depends upon iPhone and iPad, and their growth is now on a downward trajectory. Apple is trying to find an alternate platform through hardware products like Apple TV and Apple Watch, but for the foreseeable future, neither TV OS nor Watch OS are going to be as large as iOS. So why not build on top of iOS itself?
While some people feel these platforms are nothing else but a sign of Apple opening up, I feel it’s nothing else but Apple just trying to find the next big platform. In this article, I’ll try to point out the announcements from WWDC that correspond the formation of a potential platform.
Siri has often been rather limited in the types of tasks it did compared to Google Now and upcoming voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. However at WWDC, Apple finally started allowing specific types of developers to make use of Siri for their apps. For iOS 10, the Siri API will work with six kinds of applications: Ride sharing, Messaging, Photo Search, Payments, VoIP calling and Workouts.
With this, Apple has already taken the first step towards converting Siri into a platform. The third party integrations are rather limited now, but it’s no doubt that Apple would try to improve and expand them as time passes. If done right, it would have the potential to unlock a lot of opportunities. Amazon’s Echo has already shown us how a conversational assistant can perform a variety of tasks from booking a car to ordering a pizza. The same is now possible through Siri.
Considering the kind of success Amazon has achieved with Echo that Amazon even went ahead and introduced a cheaper Echo Dot and prompted Google to introduce its own Echo competitor i.e Google Home, conversational assistants clearly seem to be having a bright future and this could potentially make Siri a big platform for developers and Apple as well.
Messages got a good number of updates during WWDC. You can now send 300% larger emoji, scribble text, apply background animation, have rich inline media etc. You can now also send stickers on Messages.
The sticker part wouldn’t be a big deal, but these stickers can be provided to you from third party apps. If that sounds similar, it’s because even Facebook messenger also started with stickers first before becoming a full fledged platform for chat bots. Apple has also taken the first step with stickers to making Messages a full fledged platform for chat bots.
Apple promises that users in future would be able to book cabs and order food through Messages. WeChat has been the most successful app on this front. Apple has done some ground work here for chat bots. Inline media and the ability to get options by 3D Touching an image would help in making chat bots more effective on Messages. For example, imagine chatting with a shoe selling bot, getting the image of a shoe and changing its colour by 3D touching that image to choose amongst 5-6 colors. Similarly, 3D Touching the image of a pizza to add or remove toppings.
However, Apple isn’t the first one here. Facebook has already tried its hands with chat bots and has received lackluster response initially. It remains to be seen what kind of success Apple receives over here but it opens up yet another platform for Apple and developers.
3. Live streaming
With ReplayKit, Apple has also planted its flag on the live video streaming war. Apple introduced ReplayKit with iOS 9 allowing apps to offer users the ability to record and share gameplay or screencast videos directly from within the app. With iOS 10, Apple is introducing ReplayKit Streaming, allowing users to also live stream video of what’s on their iPhone screen for the first time.
The new live feature will allow users to stream gameplay video from their iPhone while simultaneously using the device’s microphone and front-facing camera to add their own video and audio commentary overlaid on the stream. Live streaming video is the new battleground currently. Amazon bought Twitch for approximately $1 billion. Google launched Youtube Gaming as its Twitch competitor.
With the new ReplayKit, Apple has created a platform for the tons of games on the app store to be able to livestream themselves to viewers. As of now, Twitch and Youtube Gaming concentrate on hard core gamers but with the new RePlay Kit, Apple can finally pushing video live streaming into mainstream and while doing so, create a platform for developers. This platform isn’t as directly visible as Siri or Messages because of the lack of an app, but at the end of the day, it helps in allowing people ready to make something (live stream videos) meet those who would want to watch it. Also considering how Apple has now finally launched a Home app for the HomeKit framework, it’s not difficult to see Apple launching a dedicated app for the RelayKit Framework as well.
This is yet another app being opened up to all forms of developers with the help of map extensions. If you come across a hotel while navigating around the city in Maps, you can click on it and reserve a table right from within the Maps. Similarly, you could book a ride between Point A and Point B on Maps.
This is a first. I don’t think any other Map application allows you to book tables or ride from the map itself, so Apple has been the first mover here. How successful this turns out to be is something that remains to be seen. Mostly when people are at some place which they don’t know, they might open maps to find nearby restaurants and book from within Maps itself. Similarly, when users don’t know where their destination is, they might search for it on maps and might book a ride from within the app.
Regardless of how the end user might use it, Apple Maps is yet another application which has now become a platform for developers.
5. Home app and VOIP
The Home app now acts as a platform for all your smart home appliances. You can control all of them from one single app and set up batch actions. Same goes with the new VoIP API, the call is just a platform now, any app can use this platform and give you voice calls. So you can receive or make your Whatsapp call just as you would make a normal call.
At this year’s WWDC, Apple has taken a lot of iPhone apps such as Messages, Phone, Siri etc and converted them into full fledged platforms that third party developers can tap into. A lot of these are hotly contested platforms. Games Live streaming has Amazon (Twitch) and Google (Youtube Gaming) fighting. Voice assistant has Google (Google Now) and Amazon (Alexa) fighting. Chat bots again has Google (Allo) and Facebook (Messenger) fighting. With iOS 10, Apple has also knowingly or unknowingly become a part of this fight.
What remains to be seen is how many of these platforms work out well for Apple.