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Apple is breaking down silos and focusing on how customers use tech

Its easy to get caught up in feature-hype. After all, Apple probably announced over 1000 new features for its OSX and iOS operating systems at Monday’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote. Features that gave the uppercut to Google, Dropbox, Hightail, Skitch, Docusign, PDF pen, Everpix (which shut last year), Dragon dictation, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and more. But look through the hype.

Over the past year (perhaps longer), Apple’s spent a lot of time actually thinking about and understanding how its customers use its hardware and software. (They spent a lot of time developing an entirely new programming language, Swift, too, but I digress).

The ‘Continuity’ technologies on OSX and iOS are the most obvious evidence of that. AirDrop cross-compatibility between the smartphone, tablet and the desktop was always going to be the next step. It’s a feature called ‘Handoff’ though that takes us into the future. Start an e-mail on your iPhone and arrive at your desk, and the half-written mail is on your Mac, ready to be completed.

Phone calls (using your Mac as a speakerphone) and text messages are now seamlessly integrated on your Mac when you phone is nearby. (The first major use of iBeacon?)

Apple’s looked at and really thought about all ofthese actions as tasks and allowed them to be device agnostic. Seamless. Frictionless. The future.

Note that in the WWDC demos of ‘Handoff’ yesterday, the work all started on the iPhone. Is the Mac becoming an accessory?

In HealthKit, its new hub for all health and fitness-related information, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, spoke about all of the health and fitness related data living inside silos in each app (think Nike+, Fitbit, Wahoo). The aim with HealthKit (and the ‘Health’ app) is to break down those silos. This is a taste of what lies ahead.

Similarly, family sharing for iTunes breaks down the artificial barriers between family members. Digital goods – be they apps, games, music, movies, books – should be shareable in a household, in the same way that their physical counterparts are. Beyond iTunes purchases, family sharing allows photos, location, reminders, calendars and more to be shared. Its telling that Apple spoke about ‘sharing at the refrigerator’ in a household as the original place in the home for sharing. Again, they’ve been doing a lot of thinking.

iCloud photos solves a major pain point for customers. iPhones, given that they’re the most popular camera in the world, fill up fast. Photos will now sync with iCloud storage, and the entire process is seamless. Scroll back through your photos on your iPhone and most will actually be in the cloud. The line is forever blurred between the physical and what’s in the cloud. (Is there a need to buy a 64GB iPhone at the end of the year?)

Its equally telling that Federighi spent some time addressing the ‘enterprise’ market. Apple is quickly realizing how prevalent iPhone and iPad are in big business. Aside from the security, productivity and management features announced for enterprise, there’s a new iOS Device Enrollment Programme which, quite simply, allows a company to issue sealed, boxed iPhones and iPads that auto-configure to that company’s network, settings and policies after unboxing.

Finally, a raft of silos were broken down for developers on Monday (it’s a developer conference after all). A new language in Swift, extensions to allows inter-app communication, widgets for Notification Center, HomeKit – a home automation control hub (and of course, HealthKit) and thousands of new APIs (including Metal and SpriteKit). The list seems short, but there are fundamental changes to the ecosystem afoot.

Apple founder Steve Jobs embraced Alan Kay’s philosophy that “People who are serious about software should make their own hardware.” Its now more obvious than ever that Apple is in a completely unique position to do just that. And we all benefit.

Author | Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

Hilton Tarrant: Columnist
Hilton Tarrant is production editor at Moneyweb. His main focus is project management for the listed company’s local and international websites, and contributes to their strategic direction. From time-to-time, he also fills in for Alec Hogg on the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb radio programme. In between, he covers... More

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