10 years ago Apple launched the iPhone, a product that has been at the forefront of the growth in mobility globally and an icon of the digital era – a major consumer technology battleground. The iPhone has positioned Apple as a leader in the Telecommunications, Media and Technology ecosystem along with its other offerings like the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Watch and other devices.
At the recent Apple developer conference last month (WWDC) there were a number of major software and hardware announcements made. Apple often uses the conference to showcase new products or product features as well as excite the developer community on how they might build (apps/services) on top of new hardware and software. Watching the event, I could not help but think about the messages of the announcements and what they say about Apple and the position of other players in the key consumer tech battlegrounds of today.
This post outlines the some of the most interesting battlegrounds in consumer tech at the moment and what Apple’s messages at WWDC say about the competition for these domains.
Battle for streaming: Winning in TV media is all about content (still)
The first announcement of the conference was about Apple TV and the news that Amazon Prime Video will be available on Apple TV. This says a lot about the nature of streaming video/TV on demand and Apple’s role. Winning in this medium is not about the hardware or the software or even the integration of the two, it is about content which is something (at least in TV content) Apple has not been investing in at the scale of Amazon, Netflix and HBO.
Battle for new content: Podcasts are growing in popularity for customers but not yet for advertisers… or Apple
Apple announced iOS 11 their new smartphone operating system which could have made up the entire keynote itself. One of the features of the new OS is an improved podcast app allowing for greater functionality for users and analytics for podcast publishers. This addition speaks to the growing popularity of podcasts as a medium for Apple users and the growing demands of publishers. Despite growing over the past 5 years, podcast revenues are small compared to other content at ~$220M. This is relatively small if compared to other ad revenues Apple could be tapping in, which partially explains why podcasting has received little attention until now. Perhaps the changes Apple makes will increase the commercialisation of the content (e.g. visibility of listens, content changes).
The battle for the assistant in-home: Apple vs Google vs Amazon
The announcement of Apples’ Homepod has stolen a lot of the limelight post event with much excitement from techies and audiophiles alike. Like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, Apple is now launching its own (belated) take on the home assistant. The focus of Apple’s unveiling of the Homepod showed how much ground Amazon and Google have made with their assistant products versus Siri with Apple making a big deal about the audio quality of the Homepod speaker firstly, the quality of the assistant (Siri) secondary and the price thirdly (>$100 more than the Amazon and Google assistant). If Amazon and Google have changed the game on Siri with the concept of the home assistant, Apple is trying change the rules by making the quality of the speaker the most important feature of the in-home assistant. It remains to be seen how many people need a home assistant and for Apple, one with an impressive speaker.
The battle for the assistant on your wrist: Apple vs Google vs Amazon
Siri also featured in the watchOS announcement with the introduction of the Siri watch face. This implies a broadening of the scope of Siri from voice commands to context based assistance when you need it. This may sound very similar to Google Now launched a few years ago the difference being that it is play to Apple’s main advantage over Google – integrated software and hardware. Google Now requires a different watch and phone entirely but Apple has this functionality on an increasingly popular watch that works natively with an iPhone.
These consumer tech battlegrounds are interesting for the same reasons that the smartphone was 10 years ago (and continues to be) with the introduction of the iPhone. It is fair to say that the need for a home assistant or an assistant on your wrist is still not as great as the need for a smartphone, however how these battlegrounds change and the basis of that change will be of interest for the coming decade.