For those of us who love to discuss where Apple is heading as a company, the thoughts of Ben Thompson can be quite insightful. In a recent article, he discusses Apple's business strategy and why so many in the tech blogosphere seem to misjudge Apple's values and ambitions. While I don't want to discuss Ben's premise right now, I do want to share a diagram he included as a sub-point. I think this simple picture encapsulates exactly where Apple will be focusing its attention over the next decade.
You'll see a person with an iPhone, connected to five of Apple's relatively new services: Siri, Health Kit, HomeKit, Car Play, and Apple Pay. If you're not familiar with any of those services, you soon will be. Understanding these services reveals the path Apple is taking in order to become more useful and impactful of your daily life.
Most tech pundits will agree that the iPhone has dethroned the computer as our digital hub. When paired with a powerful cloud service, the iPhone contains all of our pictures, documents, and communications. While it's still nice to have a computer or iPad for more productive work tasks, the iPhone is a modern necessity in our business and personal lives. And with the following services, the iPhone will only become even more essential.
This is Apple's entry into payment space. Sure, many other companies have attempted to become your digital wallet, but only Apple can say in full faith that they have no interest in collecting user data or increasing payment fees. (This is because Apple makes money by selling hardware.) The list of retailers who accept Apple Pay grows every day. If you've already used Apple Pay with your iPhone 6, you can rest assured that the store has no knowledge of who you are, and Apple has no knowledge of what you even bought. In an age of corporate privacy abuse, this is a tremendous step forward.
Siri is perhaps the most well known of these services because it has been around the longest. Pitched as your personal assistant, Siri strives to answer all your web searches, initiates calls and texts, creates calendar events, plays music, and much more. With every year, Siri grows in its ability to recognize your voice and carry out a variety of your commands. As you'll soon see, Siri becomes even more powerful when paired with the services below.
"Home Automation" is a buzz word in the tech industry right now, and it basically means gadgets for your house that are connected to the internet. One can buy automated light bulbs, thermostats, washing machines, and security systems. Well, Apple wants in on the action.
HomeKit is Apple's attempt to standardize the way in which these services talk to your iPhone. The idea is that if everything connects to your phone, you could use Siri to issue commands to your house. More than likely, you do not yet have any devices in your home that support Home Kit. It's relatively new, and the list of buyable accessories is low. That said, the list is growing quickly, and I suspect it'll only be a matter of time before we can ask Siri to lower your thermostat, turn off the lights, and activate your home security system with a single command.
Statistics show that using your phone while driving actually makes you more dangerous than a drunk driver. In an effort to keep your eyes on the road and yet allow you to use your phone for navigation and audio playback, Apple created something called Car Play. It takes over your car's built in display and replaces it with Apple's own elegant and simplified app chooser. Every app is controlled via voice commands, so you can initiate calls, send texts, ask for directions, and play music — just like with Siri.
HealthKit is already available on the iPhone, but is severely limited by the fact that your iPhone doesn't always reside in your pocket and cannot always know your body movement. But the upcoming Apple Watch will change this. The Apple Watch comes equipped with cutting edge health monitors for heart rate and physical activity. When paired with the power of your iPhone, it can give you insights into how you can live a more healthy lifestyle.
Apple's plan forward
We truly are entering into a connected world, where technology aides every area of our life. Apple's hope is to reduce the amount of friction involved in making payments, safeguarding your home, keeping your eyes on the road, and encouraging exercise. We certainly agree that these are good things, but it will remain to be seen as to whether Apple has the talent needed to successfully achieve these lofty goals over the few years.