Placing Bets

We seem to be approaching a crossroads. Most of the big tech companies are focussing efforts on AI and bots. Just last week Google unveiled a raft of products, all currently unavailable but here in the fall, which are focussed on their AI technology and the amount of data amassed about their users. Google Home and Allo with Google Assistant at their core offer a compelling look at a voice or text driven future focussed on helping you do things easily or get to information without launching an app or taking much time.

Another key aspect is that you can do this on any mobile platform. For Google it’s not locked to Android and for Facebook and Microsoft they don’t have their own mobile hardware platform…sorry Microsoft.

So what next for Apple?

Marco Arment had a great post last week – If Google’s right about AI, that’s a problem for Apple. Could Apple really be the next Blackberry?

In some ways I fear it’s heading that way. They seem far behind with AI. Siri was fine when it first launched but it’s stagnated, many of it’s founders have left Apple and launched a new voice driven product with AI at it’s core, and as Marco’s post highlighted you just can’t simply catch up in a year or buy your way out of a hole. In many ways the focus on security and privacy puts Apple at a disadvantage compared to it’s rivals. Opening up Siri to third parties would help somewhat but it still feels flawed as a service to me.

Using voice feels awkward, especially in public. There are some things that I don’t want to say out loud or are easier just to type. Using voice in private is something completely different and I’ve wanted to try an Amazon Echo for a while although will probably end up picking up a Google Home when it releases. Could Apple release a similar product? Of course. Would it integrate with third parties as quickly or openly as Amazon has allowed?

These are challenging questions for Apple that it has to address. The phone and tablet market has matured and while it’s still an incredible revenue generator for Apple it won’t last forever. Just ask Blackberry.

Apple also seems to be out of the AR/VR loop. It’s computer hardware can’t drive an Oculus although on the mobile side it could easily launch AR support as the hardware in the iPhone is extremely capable.

The niggle in my head is that it looks like Apple is playing catchup and it’s in the area’s of the business which it’s softer in – services and software.

WWDC is just over two weeks away and I can’t wait to see what Apple do and the future bets it’s placing. It feels like this years announcements are more critical than ever.

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