Apple Firing on All Cylinders in 2024

In a silo it was all expected and fine, but taken together it paints a clear picture.

For the last couple of months, I’ve had the feeling that this WWDC would be a big one. ‘Big’ in the sense that it is going to create mountains of work for Apple developers across the globe, while giving people a lot of great things to use come September. Yes, there’s all the AI stuff — but there’s loads more Apple announced as well.

Rather than rehash what was said, I wanted to dive into a few things of note. Apple has put developers on quite a roller coaster with these announcements.

Sherlocking and Base Business

Apple caught up a lot on their ‘base business’ this year. Adding reminders into Calendar, adding calculator to iPad, the Passwords app — the Discord was full of ‘RIP APP NAME’ comments during the stream — and in a lot of ways these apps had simply fallen behind but Apple shot them all the way back up. I’d guess there’s more we didn’t see.

Reading between the lines, Apple seems to be signaling to app developers/owners that Apple is not complacent in these areas — they are paying attention. So it’ll be a game of cat and mouse. Apple has the patience to wait and release (aka Sherlocking), most software companies cannot afford to do the same.

What’s more, Apple seems to be tackling the apps which contain the more private parts of your life. Mail, Messages, Calendar, Passwords — these are not places you generally want others to spelunk — these are very much the ‘you’ parts of your devices. While a lot of these apps have made good money for years (think Calculator apps for iPads) you never really know how long until your biggest competitor is doing it for free, and making it easier because they learned from everything you did. The reason the iPhone is not a Blackberry or Palm Treo or any number of earlier smart phones is because Apple learned from those companies and perfected the vision.

It seems like this is now really playing out in Apple software over the last couple of years. Where in prior years people would happily use a third party app for any number of things as they offered real advantages over the system apps. But how can you beat an excellent and free Password manager, and Notes or Calendar? It’s going to be a battle there.

Busy Summer to Stay Relevant

But the hits keep coming. Controls API, App Intents, new Tab Bar in iPadOS, and the icon shit — that’s a lot of work for developers to crank out and cover for all the Apple platforms they support. Not a small task.

Apple tends to like to say “already works” or “easily adds” but this comes with the major caveat of “if you’ve been doing it in the way Apple has been telling you to do it for years now”. Which is to say: not a lot of the companies out there (especially the really big ones).

App Intents highlight blurb notes that there’s “hundreds of new actions in Siri” as well as new APIs for maintenance around those tasks. That’s great for users, oh man for developers — and users are going to want this stuff to work or they will take their pitchforks to the App reviews.

This doesn’t even touch on the all new Controls API which allows apps to provide actions from your app in Control Center. This is one of those spots where not being there could lose you users. For users, man this is going to be messy to sort out and manage.

And that’s before diving into what the effort for the new iPad tab bar will be. I have no clue, but I suspect it’s not a drop in for the largest apps out there. But it does look great.

Hoping for the Future

Apple did AI in the most Apple way possible. They did it with fairly practical uses, some really fun uses, and some ‘oh damn’ stuff mixed in there. Writing Tools will be amazing, solving the issue smartphones created with crappy punctuation from the tiny onscreen keyboards. The Image and Emoji stuff is pure fun.

Apple took it further, and gave users a completely new way to interact with their devices. And if you add it all up, it’s a little staggering to look at.

Apple has taken AI and applied it in a way which will make the system feel magical. It’ll prioritize incoming stuff (by understanding the context) to tell you it’s urgent, and ensure it gets in front of you. The power in that alone is rather staggering. The ‘math notes’ feature makes math so much more intuitive. Forget writing equations, you can now scribble out your budget and have the math done for you. Cleaning up handwriting for you, so that you don’t need a paper feeling screen protector, and your notes look tidy: magic.

Then there is Siri, who will finally act as a knowledge empowered assistant. The examples shown are powerful, and start to fulfill the promise of these tools when they came out. Helping you find a feature, email, or image — right from the base of the system, this is going to be a huge deal. This is the type of use where AI shines bright. The Driver’s License example was good, but what if you need to look up the gate code from Gary? I am guessing this new setup will quickly find that without you needing to remember if it was in a Message, Email, Calendar invite — or maybe one day Instagram DM. That alone is awesome to think about.

This is going to have an interesting impact. Right now the way the enter an app is by deciding first to go to that app, and then navigating to the thing you want to do. But if instead your starting point is actually Siri and telling her what you want to do/see — then suddenly the UI/UX paradigms of each app we have been using change very much.

Apple is hinting at this with Photos. The navigation changes seem a little weird, maybe even more hidden now, but that’s only in a context where/when you are not using Siri and AI to control the app. I create a lot of photo albums. Right now if someone asks me to send them my current profile picture, I head to Photos. I tap favorites and start scrolling, then I inevitably recall that I actually made an album for that, and head over to that, open the image and then share it to the person. But with this new system, I should be able to grab the image in a couple quick taps from within the app/place I am being asked for it. That’s the promise, and that then means that going to Photos to do a thing, is not really a use anymore.

Instead Photos is like a photo server for me — a repository. Sure I can browse Photos, but why would I? Apple already builds me great little movie album things to let me reflect on past events. I can ask Siri to get me an image or images I want.

Now take that thinking and rubber stamp it to any other app. It’s going to require a complete rethinking of apps in general. There will still be some you head directly to — social media and communications — but maybe even those are less necessary for those things. If the system is actually bubbling up stuff it thinks you need or want to know, then you could just, wait? I sure hope so.

“Siri, send my last reciept image to my latest expense report.”

This stuff will be huge for B2B and Enterprise apps, where cost conscious development is the rule of the day, now you can offload even more to Apple while making users happier and more efficient. Lots of winning there.

As a side note really: Apple seems to be in a comfortable spot with the LLMs they are using. They didn’t really talk about them much but they did mention they will be adding more. They seem to be taking the approach of using the best model for any given use case, which is pretty ideal for end users right now. I can’t wait to get more detail on this.

In a lot of ways, Apple removed the need for AI embedded in apps, and instead you are just a carrier for iOS/iPadOS — oof. Put another way: why do I want to chat with my PDF inside of PDFExpert, when I can just tell Siri what I need to find/know and never have to open an app?

Yeah, that’s going to be big, but what it means for apps long term — well that shall be interesting. Right now it means a lot of work, in the future it’s going to mean looking hard at how this new Apple Intelligence is going to impact the profitability of your app overall. Which, in a way, is why Enterprise and B2B app makers are going to be busy, but unconcerned about losing their income streams by Apple ‘Sherlocking’ them.

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