Many people were disappointed with Apple’s announcements at WWDC17 due to the lack of step change innovation. They argued that we should expect more from a company with a $10bn R&D budget. However, the key to Apple’s success versus (for example) Samsung, is that they keep the product portfolio small, and seldom gamble on new technology. They let others fail first.
Google on the other hand, openly work on moon shot projects and make new products and services available to the public before they are ready.
Both Apple and Google launched some very exciting new products and services this summer. Here’s a quick overview:
Wireless speaker with voice control and sound quality that matches that of e.g. Sonos, and thus competes in a different category than Alexa or Google Home. The most interesting aspect from a trend point of view is that it means Apple believes in voice control. With Siri currently being far behind Google and Amazon, they have a lot of catching up to do. The product won’t be available until the end of the year. However, DMI will begin work now for several customers.
This was potentially not only the biggest piece of news, but also the most anticipated. For those expecting Apple to launch a hardware product it might come as a disappointment, but this is probably just the first step. ARKit enables Apple and app developers to use the camera and motion sensors to do rock-solid positional reaching. This may seem trivial, but the hardware integration gives Apple a big advantage vs. Facebook and Snapchat that have integrated AR functionality to their apps. Google provides similar functionality through the Tango Unity SDK, but this only works on a limited set of devices running the latest OS. Microsoft does it with integrated hardware on HoloLens.
CoreML (Machine Learning)
For developers, this was big news as both Google and Apple are now endorsing a combination of central cloud for powerful machine learning computing and local machine learning to enhance. The functionality by Apple will make it faster, easier, and with less battery consumption for developers to improve functionality such as image, video, audio, and text recognition.
Three years after launch of Apple Pay, NFC is finally being opened up to developers for other use cases. Apple didn’t provide much details though other than that it will be able to read tags. This is a big move for enterprise apps as it can be used for logistics. It’s unlikely that Apple will open it up for other payment providers, but let’s see.
App Store Redesign
Apple has completely redesigned the iOS App Store for the first time since it launched. The focus is on improving discoverability and reducing impact of top list manipulation. For ASO, this will have a big impact, but most importantly we hope that it will be easier for iOS users to find apps.
There’s tons of other news, but the most important from a developer or enterprise purpose was Business chat and payment integration in Messages. Basically, businesses can leverage Messages to communicate with customers as a complement to e.g. Facebook Messenger, WeChat or their own chat solutions. In addition to this, Apple Pay can be used to pay for goods and services as Messages integrate P2P payments. More details to follow.
Google now uses the company’s I/O event to talk about their plans rather than big announcements. This is great as it provides a direction for developers and enterprises of where Google sees the big opportunities.
We’ve been sceptical about the ability to provide useful virtual assistants. That is until now. Google is rapidly adding new functionality to Google Assistant that simplifies lives of users and provides new opportunities for companies to engage with users. Point the phone at a flower and it will recognise the species. or at a music poster and it pulls up the band. My favourite feature is that if you point at Wi-Fi login credentials, your Android phone will be able to use that info to log on to that network. And Google just made Assistant available for iOS users as well, although less integrated.
Home is key to Google’s ambition to take over the home and to achieve this, they are integrating Google Assistant everywhere. Home will now be more capable of directing the right information to the right connected screen. Say something like: “OK Google, show my calendar for today” and Home can instantly display your day’s events on a Chromecast-connected TV. This is of course only the beginning, but over time we will naturally be able to control more gadgets present at home seamlessly (assuming that they all support Google’s standards, of course).
At I/O in May, Google announced that upcoming headsets from partners including HTC and Lenovo won’t require a smartphone or PC to power the user’s VR experience. You just put it on and it works. This should enable much better VR experiences for wireless headsets.
Android Go is a version of the mobile operating system built for entry-level devices that’s optimized for being used in data-restricted environments. Android Go also has its own version of the Google Play Store, which features apps that are best suited for the developing world. With this, Google and its developers hope to reach another billion people.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI was a big topic at I/O. The focus was on AI and machine learning capabilities of cloud as well as Google’s next-generation Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) – a specially designed chip for machine learning that works on the company’s TensorFlow platform. Just like Apple CoreML, this enables more distributed AI functionality.
See a pattern here between Google and Apple? Yes, Artificial Intelligence, Assistants, and AR/VR are key to the future of both companies. DMI is already working on solving customer problems with these and other technologies announced during the summer. Not everything will be a success, but through rapid prototyping and testing, we will soon find out who the winners are.
Magnus Jern, Chief Innovation Officer