Tuesday, June 11, 2013

iOS 7 - A great shade of pig lipstick

iOS 7 was announced yesterday, and almost all of the hoopla has been around the new flat design - attempting to rid itself of any fingerprints of the long-gone Scott Forstall and his skeuomorphic design elements.  There were also some really great usability upgrades like better multi-tasking, AirDrop for file sharing, and Control Center.  Supposedly some of these things have been seen for a while in other applications or OS's, but as the saying goes 'Amateurs borrow and professionals steal.'

Yes, there will be ripple effects through the streaming radio market with their new iRadio service.  Apple is finally a company that has enough historical user data (through customer purchase data on iTunes) to fine-tune musical preferences to suit each consumer to effectively compete with Pandora.  Startups like Spotify and Rdio have to build that database from scratch which takes a long time and is very expensive. Ultimately, this will probably hurt Pandora a lot more than it will help Apple since Pandora's entire market cap (http://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSE:P) is less than 0.5% of Apple's (http://www.google.com/finance?q=aapl).  So while it is a great app and I'm excited to try it, it will not make this a valuable upgrade in and of itself for Apple.

What actually bothered me was what always made the new OS announcements so exciting in the first place.  Not because of the new applications that Apple now bakes in, but the new APIs they released in their developer SDK that opened up entire new ecosystems for developers to play. On that front, this release left me wholly uninspired.

Whenever Apple released a big OS update in the past, they used to parade big application developers across the stage.  Often times they would demo new applications they said weren't possible on any device until Apple created the revolutionary new OS that enabled new graphics engines, or mapping capabilities, or deeper social integration, or access to device components like the camera, music library, and contacts list.  While the new look calendar and photo apps and the flashlight app are cool, I don't see any transformational new markets forming as a result of iOS 7.  As always, time will tell but this feels like a v6.2 that they needed to market as a v7.0 to appease the Street and their own seemingly self-imposed annual release schedule.