Thoughts from WWDC 2014

Some of my random thoughts from the WWDC2014 announcements.

Spotlight search moving away from Google

There has been quite a bit of discussion that Apple may be gradually moving away from Google, even on Search. This is evidenced by Spotlight using Bing for searches instead of Google.

I actually take a different view. I am starting to think that Google search has overshot mainstream demands and is actually vulnerable to low-end disruption. What I mean is that for most of the time, when people are doing Google searches, they don’t really require the full power of Google. Instead, what they want to do is to find the meaning of a word from Wikipedia, a location from Maps, something in the news, restaurant information or information about a song or an application. They don’t really need a search engine that knows everything that is on the net, including random blogs. What they need is information from a handful of distinct services.

Google itself acknowledges this. Search for “sushi” on Google and they will give you a map of sushi restaurants nearby and an entry from Wikipedia. Search for “Masahiro Tanaka” and Google will give you an entry from Wikipedia and a link to news searches. Google realizes that people are not looking for random sushi information, no matter how relevant it may be to the “sushi” keyword. Instead the majority of users are using Google as a gateway to Wikipedia, maps and news.

For these users, a search engine that simply listed Wikipedia entries or directly looked up maps would be more convenient than using the full Google search engine.

Hence my position is that Spotlight is less about replacing Google with Bing, and is much more about directly showing Wikipedia entries, etc. Google is facing the possibility of low-end disruption on search.

iCloud Drive

It is becoming increasingly obvious that some elements of the Cloud are starting to be commoditized. iCloud Drive is a prime example of this. We have DropBox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive. We even have open-sourced clones like ownDrive. DropBox, which used to be a prime example of how the cloud is becoming so convenient and important, is now almost completely commoditized. It will be very difficult for even DropBox to differentiate itself from the rest.

Windows compatibility

iCloud Drive will be available for Windows but not for Android. This clearly show what Apple thinks of Android. Apple views Windows as a necessary evil. They realize they cannot ignore Windows because it is so dominant in both the consumer and corporate spaces.

On the other hand, Apple considers Android users as people who made the wrong choice by mistake. Apple thinks that if Android users regain their sanity, they will move towards iPhone.

Seriously, if you consider the few most likely multi-OS situations and think through how Apple would like each consumer to behave in the future, you can see the rationale behind Apple’s decision.

For example, Windows PC and iPhone/iPad users are completely covered by Apple’s commitment to iTunes on Windows and iCloud Drive. There is clear multi-device support there, although limited because Apple can not directly modify Windows.

Also, you won’t find many Mac users who decided to use Android smartphones, so it’s meaningless to cater to these users.

There will be many Windows PC users who also have Android phones. Apple isn’t able to target these users with iCloud until they buy at least one Apple device, but that’s another strategy.

Now the main issue is with Windows PC users who own an iPad and an Android phone. Given the market share of each device category, there are quite a lot of users in this segment. Now iPad and Windows will work well together, at least as well as how Windows and Android will work. Given the rapid replacement cycle of smartphones and the dominance of Windows, it makes sense for Apple to try to convert the Android phone to iPhone rather than to convert the Windows PC to a Mac. To achieve this, Apple should work on getting the iPad to work better with Windows, at least better how Android. They should try to make Android the odd-man-out. This isn’t a difficult task given how Google doesn’t like collaborating with Microsoft.

So my view is that Apple is being very sensible in supporting Windows in their multi-device strategy and not supporting Android.