Has Apple gotten its groove back -- assuming its groove was ever in danger? The jury is just beginning to register its votes, based on announcements made Monday in the first day of the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), now taking place in San Francisco.
Although there were no stop-the-presses new product line intros, the day's announcements were chock-full of goodies for Apple watchers.
They included a major overhaul of Apple's signature mobile operating system, a new streaming radio service, a refresh of its MacBook line, a preview of the new Mac OS, and new features for the Siri voice-controlled personal assistant. Other announcements included the fact that the new lightweight MacBook Airs will feature 9 to 12 hours of battery life. Many of the new features and products will not be released until late in the year, so the market's buying response is still months away.
Some observers have noted the new iTunes Radio service could have been trumpeted more visibly, particularly given the months of speculation about its emergence. Perhaps it received less prominence because of its resemblances to such existing services as Pandora or Spotify, or possibly because the company was closing the essential deals with the major music labels up to the last minute. Having once revolutionized the entire music industry, however, it's also possible the expectations for high levels of innovation from Apple were too great when connected to a music industry in which there's not that much great innovation left.
The conference was attended by 5,000 developers and, as Information Technology Intelligence Corp's Laura DiDio noted, the tickets for WWDC "were sold out within 90 seconds of their availability." She joked that "Bruce Springsteen would be challenged to sell out in 90 seconds," and that Apple obviously still has its mojo among the developer community.
But, as some news accounts have noted, the Apple developers are an easy crowd, even breaking into applause when the lights dimmed to begin the show. Chief Executive Tim Cook pointed out to the audience that Apple has paid more than three times in mobile royalties to developers than all of the other mobile platforms combined, including, of course, the reigning mobile platform, Android.
DiDio said that, contrary to the Apple-bashing by some Wall Street analysts and press, the company "never lost its momentum." She added that what they may have lost, "if they ever really had it," was a sense that they could do no wrong. That sense was diminished after the death in 2011 of co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, she noted, but the expectations "were unrealistic."
DiDio said that all of Monday's announcements appeared "very solid," positioning the company over the next 18 months. She pointed in particular to the new, flatter and simplified user interface for iOS 7, which "successfully did what Microsoft has tried to do with its Phone interface." And she noted that Monday's announcements "enhanced almost every feature or capability of its product lines," including multitasking, Maps, iTunes, and Siri.