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Apple WWDC 2014: The Six Things You Need to Know

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Apple didn't land any knockout punches, but it's clearly moving in the right direction.

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) did not land a knockout punch at yesterday's 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference keynote -- but it did land a lot of jabs that add up to one heck of a show.

Here's what you need to know:


1. Craig Federighi Is a Star

Apple didn't announce any new products yesterday, but it has a new star.

Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi was on the stage for 70% of the presentation, up from 50% in 2013, according to Mashable.com.

CEO Tim Cook has always been a bit on the stiff side, while Federighi is poised, charismatic, and energetic -- in other words, a perfect salesman.

No one can touch Steve Jobs as a product promoter, but Federighi's the next best thing and needs to be promoted as Apple's public face as much as possible.


2. Google Should Be Worried

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is the default search engine in Safari on iOS and OS X, but that may not be the case forever. 

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing has been the default search engine for Siri, but it will now also be the default search option within Spotlight on iOS and OS X.

Additionally, the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo ("The search engine that doesn't track you" is its slogan) will become a Safari search option.

Tim Cook gleefully knocked Android for security and fragmentation issues yesterday, so I could imagine that he'd be all too happy to consider an alternative default search option, even at the risk of alienating users.

And what if Apple just buys DuckDuckGo?

Also see:  WWDC 2014: Apple Becomes More Like Google, and That's Great News  



3. Not Much for the Mass Market, Yet

Apple announced a laundry list of product enhancements yesterday, and is being criticized this morning for taking a little too much inspiration from other service providers.

For example, the new iCloud Drive looks very Dropbox-like, and iMessage just added new location, audio, and video features that were already available in Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) WhatsApp.

Some of the enhanced functionality may appeal to techies, but I'm not quite sure they translate into market share gains among average people.

In the near-term, a big-screen iPhone is what will really count.

 

4. HealthKit and HomeKit Don't Make a Splash

As expected, Apple announced new health and connected home initiatives, but they almost felt like afterthoughts relative to the heavy attention given to new messaging features and cross-platform functionality.

HealthKit can track health metrics from third-party apps and, with user permission, can connect to health-care professionals.

HomeKit is a network protocol that allows iPhones and iPads to be used for home automation, and Apple is working with partners like Cree (NASDAQ:CREE), Phillips, and Sylvania on implementations.

I'm sure Apple will aggressively push in these areas longer term, but there just wasn't much to get excited about here.

Getting Siri to shut the garage door? Yawn.


5. It's Not Metal Enough, Yet

Apple introduced a new graphics programming API called Metal aimed at delivering console-level graphics on iOS devices.

Now there's no telling how well Metal will perform in real-world use, but the game demos, which included Electronic Arts' (NASDAQ:CE) Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, looked pretty darn impressive.

Is this a near-term risk to the Microsoft Xbox and Sony (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation franchises?

No way. There are just too many obstacles for Apple in gaming, including the lack of proprietary hard-core games and a proper controller interface.

But longer term, it's possible that a generation growing up on cheap touchscreen games may not see the need for consoles.


6. Apple Is Taking the Long View

Perhaps the most important element of yesterday's keynote was the long-term orientation of Apple's strategy.

Its new Swift programming language is designed to make Apple platforms even more developer-friendly, ensuring that iOS remains priority number one for the next generation of coders.

Plus, there was a clear focus on interoperability between iOS devices like iPhones and iPads and the OS X-powered Macs, creating a very high incentive for users to go all-Apple for their computing needs.

Apple also announced a Family Sharing feature allowing iTunes purchases to be shared with a family, extending the all-Apple theme.

The company clearly doesn't care about chasing trends or being first in a new product category; it's building an ecosystem that keeps people inside its walled gardens forever.


Conclusion

There wasn't any one big thing that's going to devastate the competition or drive sales through the roof today, but Apple bulls should still be happy with WWDC thus far.

Apple is still making steady improvements in the user experience, and its baby steps into home automation and health care should bring new growth opportunities over time.

Well done, Cupertino.

For another take on Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, see: WWDC 2014: Apple Becomes More Like Google, and That's Great News


Twitter: @MichaelComeau


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