WWDC 2013: Apple Treads Carefully Amidst Change
I eagerly anticipated WWDC 2013 because Apple really needed something new to lift an image that is fast becoming stale. I think Apple largely delivered on the premise of visual change in iOS 7. WWDC 2013 probably showcased less features than the preceding year but Apple addressed the question that it was posed. It delivered a design uplift to iOS. The rest of its announcements did not really raise eyebrows.
If you had read my piece last month on why it is not a good time to buy tech products, I warned potential PC and Mac buyers to wait till Haswell is released. Haswell has been launched early this month and OEM manufacturers like Lenovo, Asus, HP, Dell, Acer, Sony and many others have jumped right on. Haswell will provide a considerable increase in battery life and it is not surprising that Apple has followed in suit with the MacBook Air. There were no announcements about the MacBook Pro. Now is the right time to buy Haswell laptops and the MacBook Air is one of them.
Now is the right time to buy Haswell laptops and the MacBook Air is one of them.
On desktops, Apple has uncharacteristically announced a product that will not be available for purchase within three months. The Mac Pro was showed off as a reduced tower that was compact. The tower will use dual AMD GPUs which is something I cannot recommend at this point in time considering how far nVidia is ahead with Titan. However, even those interested will not know when they can purchase one besides ‘later in 2013’. With Tim Cook the supply chain guru as CEO, it is rather strange that he would choose to unveil a product that cannot be bought.
The star of the show was iOS. iOS powers iPhones, iPads and iPods, devices that account for the bulk of Apple’s revenue. Apple did not rise to its current position because of OS X or Macs but rather on these iDevices. iOS looked tired. Dead tired. I have mentioned many times how iOS 6 looks just like iOS 1 and Apple responded today.
Flattening iOS was a good move but Apple chose to go for a colour scheme that didn’t suit the new design language.
The main update to iOS was a rework of its visual appearance. I would call this facelift both a hit and miss. I like how Apple flattened the entire design. The 3D styled effects of earlier iOS versions looked like what amateurs with Photoshop did in the early 2000s. Flattening iOS was a good move but Apple chose to go for a colour scheme that didn’t suit the new design language. Apple is known to prefer bright metallic shades of neon colours. These colours went very well with its former curved beveled designs but the same cannot be said on a flat base.
It is hard to fathom that Johnny Ives made these designs decisions but I think there’s more than meets the eye here. I think Ives’ end goal is to have a simplified colour palette that will fit with a minimalist approach, like how Microsoft reduced the number of core colours to no more than 8 in its Metro UI design language. But unlike Microsoft, Apple decided not to rock the boat. This can possibly explain the half hearted approach in design change. Some pro Apple sites have surprisingly denounced the design changes and I can see why but I think iOS 7 is a design change in mid flight executed in this manner to allow its current user base to transit to a new design language.
Unlike Microsoft, Apple decided not to rock the boat. Expect design changes to be completed in iOS 8.
In terms of features, iOS 7 brought less to the table than iOS 6 did. The only new features is that of its iTunes Radio service and Airdrop. I don’t think either of the features are game breaking. In fact, both features are late and will probably not be used much. iTunes Radio is very late behind Spotify and options from Amazon and Google. As I wrote in the Google IO post, Apple lost its huge lead in music in this area. However, it is good to see that they have finally come on board. The Airdrop service is strictly for use between iOS users. The fact that iOS has lost its lead in US and fares even lesser in other countries means there is limited use for this. People will prefer to use universal platform services like Dropbox rather than Apple’s or Samsung’s file sharing features that is locked into a relatively smaller community.
I think iOS has 2 important system changes – Control Center and Multitasking improvements. Control Center is a long overdue update. Yes, Android had it first and still features a more powerful control center. I don’t care if Apple rips off Android or Samsung rips off Apple, etc. This is a step forward for iOS. The same goes with multitasking improvements. Again Apple seemingly ripped off WebOS. It doesn’t matter. iOS may actually multitask better than Android in this case. It is all about execution and refinement, not originality. This is true for the tech world.
If not for the iOS 7 facelift, this would have been a very boring WWDC. iOS received minor features and some system tweaks. OS X received a few new features. MacBook Airs received the same update as every other laptop OEM. Smaller Macs were unveiled but there was no date given for purchase.
But, the key point here is iOS 7’s facelift. I think it is the right move. It is not over yet for Apple. Ives must continue to iterate on the design. iOS 7 is just the midpoint of a change in design language and I can understand why Apple wants to tread very carefully here. Surely, iOS 8 is the right time to complete that design transformation.
WWDC 2013 is centered on Apple’s continuity. The market has remained constant. Both Android 4.2.2 and iOS 7 are not game changers.
Apple will not win new users with the software announcements made in WWDC 2013. There was nothing that would give itself a leg up over Android in the mobile space or Windows in the traditional computing space. Its moves are currently defensive. As such, Apple will not lose users as well. It will keep its user base which is sufficiently large enough to keep profits and revenues flowing.
WWDC 2013 is centered on Apple’s continuity. The market has remained constant. With Android seemingly stagnant as well, the question now turns expands to a broader front: Are we seeing the consolidation stage of the mobile era?
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