Stacks and Clouds and Apps ByPlace

Apple had a really big WWDC with lots of stuff for developers to digest. One of the most interesting comments came from Benedict Evans who has developed a theory about the different directions in which Apple and Google are travelling. Apple is taking advantage of its deep hold of devices (phone, tablet, desktop) to drive software down into the individual’s device and the software it runs, whereas Google is moving everything in the opposite direction, away from dumb glass up to cloud-based services where all the intelligence is happening in ways that inform Google. Google would like to know everything that might inform your choice. Apple is building an ecosystem of apps and app-driven devices with the software that matters running on the device, whereas Google wants everything to happen via Googled web services.

Apple is moving innovation down the stack into hardware/software integration, where it’s hard for Google to follow, and Google is moving innovation up the stack into cloud-based AI & machine learning services, where it’s hard for Apple to follow. This isn’t a tactical ‘this’ll screw those guys’ approach – it reflects the fundamental characters of the two companies. Digesting WWDC: Cloudy

This theory explains the different approaches the two companies have to the privacy issue. Google needs to know everything you know, so that it can inform your choice and even anticipate it. Apple needs your device to know just as much as it needs to know, so that you can control that information and the apps will look after that information. Just to the extent that you decide that they should. Apple sees privacy as a core which the user is entitled to loosen if she chooses, whereas Google sees privacy as a frontier that retreats as the cloud gains dominance.

What does this tell us about newspapers and magazines? The first lesson is that newspapers, magazines and books are small potatoes as far as these big platform wars are concerned. Apple and Google are not really concerned about these relatively small media markets. Their big battle is for the user and his/her budget across the board and for his/her decisions at the moment and the place that they are in. But I think the second lesson that we can draw from WWDC is that the Apple environment is becoming ever more ambitious. If a magazine or a newspaper designs its apps for the best performance on the iOS platform it will be increasingly difficult to achieve similar quality for the Android or web environments. Apple is winning the high end smart phone and tablet markets, and iOS apps look like they might continue winning at the premium end of the media markets. Digital subscriptions for magazines and newspapers are going overwhelmingly through iTunes. Maybe this dominance will continue.

At Exact Editions we were particularly excited by Apple’s new moves to encourage location awareness in devices and apps. Location based services and notifications is especially interesting and chimes in with our own development of ByPlace functionality for Exact Editions apps:

One new feature sees the iPhone displaying apps on the lock screen based on location. For example, MacRumors readers have seen relevant app icons pop up while at or near brick and mortar locations like Starbucks and the Apple Store. While at a Starbucks, for example, the Starbucks app icon is displayed in the lower left corner of the iPhone’s lock screen, which allows the Starbucks app to be easily accessed. MacRumours: iOS 8 offers Quick Access to Apps based on Location

We like the sound of this, and the next step is for the Starbucks app to pop up and inform you that since you are in the Starbucks on the Charing Cross Road you ought also be able to get free promotional access to an Economist app or a Vogue app. This points publishers towards new promotional strategies and new sales opportunities. Magazine and newspaper apps that are available ByPlace are apps taking advantage of local conditions. Google news is always asking me whether it can use my current location. I often say yes, but with the muted thought that Google is taking advantage of me, rather than me taking advantage of Google. I think Apple is looking to a future in which the user can take advantage of the apps available nearby. This is putting the app at the service of the user, rather than the user at the service of the app. An important difference.