News

POV: Apple's WWDC 2017

Background:

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) was on Monday June 5. For brands and agencies alike, the event held both exciting possibilities and industry-changing announcements. The most relevant updates from Apple held true to the hottest tech topics in the industry: voice and AI, VR, AR and consumer privacy.

Details and Implications:

As expected, Apple announced its relatively late foray in to the smart speaker space with HomePod. Rolling out in December, HomePod is a voice controlled speaker powered by Apple’s AI, Siri. The device is significantly more expensive ($350) than Google Home ($129) and market-dominant Amazon Echo ($180), which according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners has generated more than $1B sales in the US. With the higher price on HomePod it is unclear if Echo-loyalists with access to hundreds of Skills will have the impetus to switch. In light of this, Apple focused its sell on the superior sound quality rather than utility. It is still unclear to what extent Apple will allow for open source development for brands to be able to build ‘Skills’ on HomePod. Apple also announced that Siri has a new voice and is becoming smarter with machine learning.

Apple also unveiled major developments in AR and VR. Apple clearly has its eyes set on the lucrative gaming market as it is allowing MacOS to support VR. Apple revealed new software, hardware, SDKs and improved graphic capabilities for developers to create VR content, meaning there will be increased scale in VR as consumer adoption grows. Apple also announced AR Kit, allowing developers to create AR apps on iOS. With the release of AR Kit, Apple instantly created the largest AR platform in the world. Anything from AR ads to full apps should be considered for brands as first-to-market opportunities. Apple’s market penetration will shift these once expensive, inaccessible technologies to a democratised utility available on the most pervasive devices in the world.

Finally, two major updates around privacy.

First, Safari will block all auto play functionality for video ads. As an industry, we can expect publishers to shift pricing to offset this to meet vital viewability requirements for our digital buys.

Second, Apple announced Intelligent Tracking Prevention on desktop Safari, which uses machine learning to prevent data tracking, ultimately affecting retargeting of brand messaging. It is unclear if Apple will roll this out to the mobile version of Safari or if users will need to enable it manually. Regardless, we can expect programmatic and cross-device partners to address this in the coming weeks.

Other updates included a new AI on iWatch to improve workouts; payment functionality on iMessage to directly compete with Venmo and an updated interface to make accessing brand keyboards easier. The app store will also get a total revamp for the first time to include more content.

Summary:

Apple’s updates were much more significant than in previous years and with industry-changing updates to privacy and new hardware and software rollouts, the impact is likely to be substantial.