Apple announced strategic changes for the company on Monday that could prove to be the biggest deal since Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007.
CEO Tim Cook and other senior executives delivered the annual keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference Monday. Apple is diving into the Internet of things, making another attempt to jump-start its cloud strategy, and is tightening integration between Macs, iPads, and iPhones.
The keynote, coming on the heels of Apple's $3 billion Beats acquisition, lacked the kind of flashy hardware announcement that signals a strategic milestone. We didn't see the anticipated smartwatch, or even new iPhones. But the new direction is nonetheless a big deal, for carriers and consumers, as well as Apple partners and competitors. (See Apple Confirms Beats Buy for $3B.)
HomeKit and HealthKit are the biggest of the big deals. They're Apple's foray into the Internet of Things, specifically home automation and smart health and fitness devices.
Apple isn't selling home automation and health devices -- at least not yet. But it's certifying other people's devices to work with Apple technology. That means your house becomes a big iPhone peripheral, like a Bluetooth headset or car kit. Same for your fitness wristband. Tell Siri you're going to bed and it automatically dims the house lights, lock the doors, close the garage doors, and sets the thermostat, Apple says.
Apple wants to be the hub for your smart home and medical and fitness devices, the way it's already the hub for home entertainment.
What this means for carriers: The Internet of Things will place new requirements on carriers for latency, reliability, and bandwidth. It's a new category of applications, the way the Internet was in the 90s and video in this decade.
The second major announcement is its CloudKit and rebooted iCloud.
Apple has been to cloud what Sylvester Stallone is to movies. Stallone made one of the greatest movies of all time (Rocky), and a whole lot of movies that range from okay to awful (Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot).
Similarly, Apple has failed most of the time when it tried to launch cloud services. MobileMe was unreliable, and iCloud only works within the Apple universe.
But oh! iTunes! It completely destroyed and rebuilt the music business.
Now, Apple is taking another run at the cloud, revising iCloud as a Dropbox competitor that can store documents and files.
Also unveiled this week: CloudKit, development tools and services to allow third-party developers to build apps using iCloud.
As with HomeKit, the new cloud apps, if successful, would increase demand for carrier services. They also potentially compete with carriers, to the extent that those carriers are getting into the cloud business themselves. However, the Apple services are infrastructure and platform services, while carriers focus more on integrating the entire enterprise's apps online. (See AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape, A Peek Inside CenturyLink's Cloud Expansion, and Verizon Brings Thunder to the Cloud.)
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