One of the three centerpieces of Apple’s keynote was iOS 6, which will launch with over 200 new features and will be backward compatible with Apple’s iPhone 3GS–its entry level phone that dates from 2010, but is still on sale. Given that Apple teased how many users (80%) have already updated to iOS 5, versus Android’s update fragmentation, this is a move to transform the entry-level smartphone market.
Apple had a deal with Google to provide a mapping solution, although it quickly went sour and Google was even said to be witholding key mapping powers like turn-by-turn and traffic from its iOS version. Now Apple has its own solution, which is perfectly tailored to its devices, and the 3-D “Flyover” feature looks like a Street View beater and probably rivals some aspects of Google Earth too. Though this doesn’t directly threaten Google’s ad revenue (which wasn’t tied to the apps on iOS) it does set a precedent.
Siri was already a threat to Google’s position front-and-center in the future of search because she’s a gateway app–search queries sent to Siri get corralled on Apple’s servers for data-mining first, not Google, and Apple selects which data source is best to suit the answer. Now a smarter Siri will divert more queries away from Google’s search.
Apple detractors will say Google already had many of these powers in its own apps and even more on Android, but they don’t present the kind of unified smart interface Apple’s managed. And now Siri’s on the iPad too, and that helps Apple in the tablet battle against Android.
Apple’s Maps solution now does turn-by-turn navigation with voice prompts and it’s voice-controlled by Siri. This is a hugely welcome addition that’ll transform the usefulness of iPhones and iPads. It’s also more powerful, for casual use at least, than many a bespoke GPS app on sale in the App Store–apps that already were killing the standalone GPS unit (It seems GPS maker TomTom may have done a deal with Apple here). The new maps solution does need a 3G connection to work, much like Google’s product, and that’s the one loophole that’ll surely become the foundation of GPS makers’ market, but they may have to adjust their app prices to appeal against the free Apple service.
Meanwhile, Siri integrated into a car is such an elegant, semingly safety-friendly idea.
Tens of thousands of app makers will be delighted at iOS 6’s powers–particularly its integrated Siri APIs, which will certainly transform some apps and enable whole new classes of apps, and Facebook integration which may help with the app “discovery” problem. Other app makers may gnash their teeth, as iOS 6 threatens Instapaper and other “read it later” apps; certain types of digital wallet app are threatened by Apple’s clever ticketing/loyalty card/pass app PassBook; and even IMDb may feel ill at ease now that Siri can do very clever movie-related searches and integrates with Rotten Tomatoes.
Kids Toy Makers
iOS 6 includes a “guided” parental control feature that changes how iPads and iPhones react so when they’re used by children they’re simpler–including a trick to keep the home button from popping out of an app to the homescreen (a favorite trick for my 20-month-old). This will enable many more kid-friendly apps to be played on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Will some kids toy makers worry that the charms of digital play will sap their market?
Business Hardware Makers
Here, of course, we mean RIM. Apple added a lot of business-friendly functions to iOS 6 and OS X today, including cross-platform sharing of browser tabs–handy for business people who travel or commute–and tricks like “do not disturb,” which improve the usefulness of both the iPhone and Macs for business users. There’s also clever cloud-editing of documents on mobile platforms and desktop computers (for when you need to adjust documents on the fly) and even iMessage, which lets you take an important IM discussion from your desk to your phone or tablet. Even video-conferencing companies may shiver a little at the fact FaceTime now works over 3G and seamlessly integrates across smartphones and desktops.
Android Cell Phone Makers
Android cell phone makers, particularly those who choose to layer their own UI ontop of Google’s OS–like Samsung–will be looking at what iOS 6 offers and wondering how to compete. They’ll also be extrapolating from the hardware and software revealed today what the 2012 iPhone will be like. It’s going to be a lot of work.
The iPad was already a dominant presence in the market, and now it’s getting even cleverer with iOS 6’s feaures and tight integration with desktop Macs (which will help it sell to enterprise users). Everyone from Asus to Google has to compete with the iPad’s new hardware and upcoming software.
Gaming PC Makers
Apple’s new MacBook Pro with retina display is, while expensive, seriously powerful and very attractively designed.
Notebook PC Makers
It’s interesting to ponder the new MacBook Pro’s implications for the notebook PC market, given the crazy scramble to imitate the MacBook Air–even if mainly by copying its thin wedge shape.
Cell Phone Networks
The full implications of iOS 6 will have to wait until we see the iPhone for 2012 in September. But we already know it’ll run FaceTime over cellular data, and that Apple’s unifying Apple IDs and cell phone numbers in its interface so that when you call someone you don’t really care what platform they pick up on. That’s going to have cell phone networks a little uneasy because it de-emphasizes phone numbers, the importance of the network itself and even awareness of which brand of network you’re using. Apple’s slowly taking conrol away, and turning phone networks into vanilla data pipes. They can charge more for that data, sure, but that’s not a long-term strategy that’s going to win. This is, however, a win for consumers–if Apple sets a precedent.