Sorting through the meaning of Apple's 2014 World Wide Developers Conference.
It’s been a fortnight since Apple staged what was arguably its most important developers conference since 2007, the year of the iPhone.
Like most of the reporters who were in the room that day, it’s taken me some time to sort through the meaning of what I saw and heard. This was an event created for software designers and programmers, not the press. As Asymco‘s Horace Dediu put it, WWDC 2014 was like “a cement conference, cheered by cement enthusiasts but leaving Architectural Digest writers asking what the fuss was all about.”
On the flight home, I posted links to some of the day-after analyses that struck me as particular insightful. See: WWDC: The second-day stories.
Two weeks later, these are the pieces I’d add to that list. Suggestions welcome.
Horace Dediu, Asymco: The greatest show on earth. “Dan Niles, a former analyst who is now a portfolio manager, said on a CNBC appearance that the WWDC event actually had nothing of any real meat for investors… The ‘investors’ that Dan Niles refers to are undoubtedly those who invest (or, more accurately, speculate with) money. But the audience for the event was an entirely different set of investors. These investors invest their passion, intellect and a substantial fraction of their lives with Apple. For them WWDC had a great deal of meat. Indeed, for them, it was probably the most significant event Apple ever staged.”
Benedict Evans, Digesting WWDC: Cloudy. “Apple invented the smartphone as we know it 7 years ago and since then the concept has been built out. All the stuff that really should have been there has been added step by step by both Apple and Google… As the core features are built out and commoditised, the changes are coming more and more in ways that reflect the very different characters of Apple and Google. I’ve described this before by saying that 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. Google thinks about improving UX [user experience] by reducing page load times, Apple thinks about UX by making it easier to scroll that page.”
Dan Frommer, Quartz: The “Apple doesn’t get the cloud” era is officially over. “Some have recently criticized Apple for not being Googly enough, arguing that Google is making big, bold bets like self-driving cars, while Apple sticks to its narrow focus on consumer electronics. This is a mostly silly argument: Apple is only Apple because of this focus, and there’s no real reason for two different companies to behave the same, anyway.”
Ben Thompson, Stratechery: What Steve Jobs wouldn’t have done. “What is critical to understand about Steve Jobs’ Apple was how much it was rooted in fear. Not fear of Jobs, but rather, the abject terror of the company ever finding itself in a similar situation to the one Jobs stepped into in 1997. A company bankrupt technically, and on the verge of being bankrupt financially, deserted by the partner it had made into a powerhouse (Adobe), and forced to accept a loan from its oldest and most bitter rival Microsoft. Jobs, and all of those closest to him, swore never again. And so, Apple hoarded cash like a depression-era grandma; every new Apple product was locked down to the fullest extent possible, with limitations removed grudgingly at best.”
John Gruber, Daring Fireball: Only Apple. “Apple didn’t need a reset [after Steve Jobs died]. Apple needed to grow up. To stop behaving like an insular underdog on the margins and start acting like the industry leader and cultural force it so clearly has become. Apple has never been more successful, powerful, and influential than it is today. They’ve thus never been in a better position to succumb to their worst instincts and act imperiously and capriciously. Instead, they’ve begun to act more magnanimously.”
. . .
On the other hand, there’s this from Michael A. Cusumano, a professor in the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T., who is writing a book about innovation and has been talking to current and former employees about the company culture:
See Matt Richtel and Brian Chen’s Tim Cook, Making Apple His Own on the front page of Sunday’s Business section. See also Daniel Eran Dilger’s critique at AppleInsider: New York Times seeks to profile Tim Cook after getting shut out by Apple.