Last year the banners at the Moscone West conference center went up on the Sunday before WWDC. This year Apple is getting a head start and already started decorating on Tuesday the week before the big event.
It’s a patchwork of app icons accompanied by the slogan: “Where great ideas go on to do great things”.
Let’s over-analyze a bit, just because we can.
Walking past Moscone I took a couple of spy pictures with my iPhone 4s. Photoshop wizard Christian Pfandler stitched them together for us. You are welcome to use this image provided you attributed it to us. He left the working platform in for effect.
What apps can you spot? I made a gist and several people helped out identifying most of the icons.
- Star Walk
- Flight Control Rocket
- PBS for iPad
- Bobo Explores Light
- Infinity Blade II
- Hero Academy
- Golfscape GPS Rangefinder
- CNN App for iPhone
- Nike+ Fuelband
- Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime
- FitFu 2
- Square Card Reader
- Words with Friends HD Free
- Temple Run
- Plan Grid
- Toca Hair Salon
- SayHi Translate
- Linked In
- World of Goo
- Where’s My Water
- Delievery Status Touch
- Vogue Japan
- National Parks by National Geographic
- Cut the Rope
- GoWalla Offline
The first thing that is blatantly apparent is that only iOS apps’ icons are present. This further underlines that fact that Apple sees the future in mobile apps and on their mobile platform.
If you go through the list the second thing that is quite obvious is that all major social networks are present, Twitter even twice by the original app as well as Tweetbot. Facebook, Linked In, Foursquare, Instagram. Based on this I venture a bet that we will be getting account integration for these networks as well. As you might know the Accounts.framework can globally manage account credentials, but at present only the Twitter type is supported.
Global Account Management
I predict that any other service that uses OAuth can be plugged in there in the future. So you will only have to set up your Instagram account once and all apps wishing to post to it can ask for permission to access your Instagram accounts.
The second large group, maybe even larger than the social networks, is covered by games. The only obviously social one being Words with Friends. So the social aspect (read GameCenter) is still present, but by far not as important. I loved to find World of Goo on there, this was by far my favorite game on iOS so far. Maybe this can convince the guys to finally get started on a WoG 2?
There are a few apps that offer some utility: Evernote, AirBnB, Foodish, SayHi Translate, Delivery Status Touch, StockTouch, Golfscape, Plan Grid. Though calling these “Productivity” would be far fetched. This assortment rather communicates that Apple likes to see apps fill a very specify small information niche as opposed to creating or editing documents. This tells me that Rich Text Editing has not been a high priority. We still won’t get a rich text editing view in iOS 6, but probably just a few minor enhancements. (I’d love to be wrong on this)
I found it intriguing to see 2 apps that require some external hardware: Nike+ Fuelband and Square. Almost as an afterthought this is also considered Niche by Apple, but one that they like to flourish. Especially with Square we like to think that this is a Sherlocking in the making. In their Apple Stores the sales staff already has an iPhone case with the ability to swipe credit cards and scan the bar code on purchased products. So there is a definite interest in promoting dedicated hardware solutions. But it has long been a prediction that Apple will eventually get into the payment business (outside of digital goods), possibly with NFC or Bluetooth 4.0. If they do then Square might have a hard future.
Developer Friedrich Markgraf offered this interpretation of the WWDC Banner:
It’s a hint at maps, social and productivity. “where … go to” = maps; “do great things” = productivity. Social is less direct, more implied in that the great ideas gather.
I found the choice of the “go on to” rather peculiar. This generally means that something is continuing. But how can ideas physically do anything? I fret at the juxtaposition of ideas and things. Things does remind me of the two hardware items that I referred to earlier. So maybe this is referring to iOS becoming an embedded operating system that we’ll see in many more hardware products that will network independently of your current iPhone or iPad? Home automation?
With the last 2 refreshes of the iPod nano we got a look that is very close to the touch based interface of iOS, but for technical reasons it still was a different operating system than iOS, only skinned to look like iOS. Hm, will we get actual iOS-running watches now? Will Pebble be sherlocked even before they get a chance to ship their first product?
3 Apps are from the passive consumption category (aka TV): Netflix, PBS and Hulu+. These might indicate an Entertainment push, but I fail to see that this would indicate an active interest in producing an actual AppleTV TV. But it might be in conjunction with embedded iOS that manufacturers would be able to license a System-on-a-Chip (SOC) with iOS 6 on it that is able to perform all the function so the current AppleTV hockey puck.
Let me explain: Apple is only ever going to sell items that you can carry home from an Apple Store. Big screen TVs totally fall out of this area of focus. But just like Apple is already licensing wireless Audio reception in the form of AirPlay to interested manufacturers I am more convinced that they’ll do the same with an embedded iOS versus to jumping into the shark-infested waters of TV set production.
The past year was the one of iCloud, none of the apps on the banner display significant effort in this area. If anything then iCloud is something that Apple believes in but they have not convinced their favorite app vendors to embrace it. I can only think of Tweetbot which recently gained the ability of synching some things over iCloud.
Running iOS Server-Side
Many more apps are basically acting as windows to the proprietary data silos of the likes of AirBnB, Evernote or all the social networks. All of this tells us that the future of mobile apps will still require some business logic and data storage in the cloud. Two things that are – in my humble opinion – also still missing from iCloud.
Which brings me to my final prediction: as soon as Apple is satisfied with the general stability and scalability of iCloud they will begin to offer to developers a backend system using the iCloud servers. The kind of system that companies like Stackmob or Parse are offering right now. Or what many small companies are building on top of Amazon EC2 or Google Apps. Phase 1 was cloud-backup and -synching. Phase 2 will be to run server-style applications on iCloud, possibly written in Objective-C.
(One can dream)