The annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is taking place next week in San Francisco, and Van Baker, research vice president at Gartner, answered some questions on what to expect at this year's event and the outlook on some of Apple's key areas.
Q: What are you expecting from WWDC this year?
A: I anticipate the developer release of iOS 7 will be released. Another possibility is an updated developer release of OS X, but that is not a given. I do not expect to see any new devices announced. There is a possibility that we will see a new service announced, such as a streaming music service.
Q: People are expecting to see a preview of some sort of iOS 7 at the event. This will be the first update with Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple, at the helm. How do you think that will influence the design of iOS 7?
A: I expect that the design of the OS will be much more minimal and cleaner with most, if not all, of the skeuomorphism gone from the OS. There will be additional functionality as new APIs are incorporated into the release, but the focus will be on the look and feel of the user experience. Ive has not been at the helm that long, and I am sure there will be more changes to come, but this is what I would expect at this time.
Q: Apple's iOS business has been considered a success. Although Android has more market share, iOS makes the lion's share of profit in the smartphone market, has more applications, practically dominates the media tablet market and has an increasingly important role in the enterprise. But iOS does face threats. What should Apple do to combat those threats?
A: Apple needs to continue to advance the platforms, and eventually they will need to introduce a new product category that is well accepted by the market. This is their history and the more time that passes before this happens, the more that the industry will question Apple's ability to innovate.
The challenge from Android is a real one, and Google will slowly gain additional share in the tablet market that will allow developers to make more money from the Android platform, so Apple needs to further cultivate developer relationships and make the interaction with the company as frictionless as possible. I also believe that Apple will need to open up more services to the developers, such as Siri, to generate additional innovation.
Q:iCloud is billed as Apple's focal point for the digital consumer, displacing a single device or platform as the center of the consumer digital experience. Google, Microsoft and other vendors have their own cloud content services, and Apple is overdue in updating iCloud. Is this an area that Apple should focus on this year?
A: At this point I do not think that consumer understanding of iCloud is where it needs to be. Apple needs to articulate the benefits of iCloud to the typical Apple customer in a manner that will generate more enthusiasm for Apple products. Apple also needs to fix the issues that developers have encountered with iCloud. The capabilities are reportedly inconsistent and difficult for developers to incorporate into their applications. For iCloud to be successful, it needs to become pervasive and work flawlessly for both Apple products and services, as well as third party applications and services. We are not at this point yet.
Q: Where do you think Apple should focus for future growth?
A: Apple needs to retain its focus on delivering compelling products and services to the consumer. This means fixing the issues that the current services have while improving them. Additionally Apple needs to demonstrate that it still has the ability to innovate and invent products that consumers don't know that they need or want yet. This is the hallmark of Apple, and its narrow product offering requires that the company continue to deliver innovation.
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