Today marked the first WWDC keynote since Steve Jobs’ death. Tim Cook eased into his role as MC, handing off to the normal array of Apple SVPs, although the pensive pauses perhaps betrayed a bit of nerves.
Among the many unspoken messages in the keynote, I was struck by the absence of sentimentality. There was no tribute, no moment of silence, no “one more thing…” Apple has moved on.
The Mac is very much back. After this keynote, if anyone complains that the Mac is a distant concern, please offer them some smelling salts. Each of the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro received updates. And there was even a bit of black cloth action for the next generation MacBook Pro. The Mac Pro update feels like a we-have-run-out-of-previous-generation-chips revision. You have to wonder why bother with such a half-baked update.
iOS is on the back stretch of the race. Where last year was about filling holes, in my opinion, iOS 6 redraws demarcation line of essential services. Mapping, location, messaging, payment, social and Search are being integrated into the OS as service-level APIs. In my opinion, this is less a money grab (see “commoditizing complements”), than a statement that the currency in each of these areas – user trust – is not going to be compromised on iOS.
Siri. OK, so now it helps you be the obnoxious person who pulls out their phone when debating whether Kobe or LeBron is taller. Great. Seriously, though, I like Siri and still believe that its potential remains untapped. But this is a hard problem, and it’s likely several years away from being truly mind-blowing.
Passbook. In a lot of ways, I think Passbook is a lot like AirPlay. It hints at a much greater ambition, which first needs to be field tested. I think Apple believes that users are going to demand Passbook functionality within certain app categories (airplane, tickets, coffeeshops, gift cars). Pull vs. push. And, for the record, I do not think that NFC is the next step.
Lastly, for those of you who watched the Keynote, you will no doubt have seen the “Thank You” video. I believe this is what makes Apple’s approach to the (mobile) computing space so very different from many of its peers. Where some of its competitors market arena robot death matches, Apple shows how its technology is helping to open the world to the blind, to the impoverished, or to those for whom even basic communication is a struggle. You get the impression that someone there gives a damn about the people using their products.
Humanizing technology is not the only marketing tactic. But it resonates, especially when it’s authentic and not a slogan.