Tom Edwards, Ad Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer and Chief Digital Officer, Agency @ Epsilon and his team including Steve Harries & Ian Beacraft, analyze trends and highlights from Apple's worldwide developer conference.
Trends include the evolution of Siri, the launch of Homepod, improvements to iOS11 and the impact it all may have for brand marketers to consider.
June 6th, 2017
APPLE WWDC 2017 RECAP
APPLE WWDC 2017
When I think of Apple, 3 things come to mind: Industrial design of it’s hardware,
interoperability across products, and of course millions of apps. After WWDC 2017, I
need to add artificial intelligence (AI) enabled experiences, device level privacy and a
new focus on augmented reality.
AI was a the key theme of WWDC (mentioned 20 times in 2.5 hours). Apple highlighted
how both machine learning and deep learning are now integrated across multiple
products. From Apple Watch, Siri, facial recognition in photos and even hand written
notes in iOS11. AI integrated experiences were one of the more important areas
discussed during WWDC.
WWDC also saw a new hardware launch in the form of the HomePod. HomePod is
Apple’s entry into the Smart speaker market. While Siri is integrated into the device it’s
to be determined the role it can play for brand marketers as the skills and actions we
have begun to depend on in other product ecosystems was surprisingly absent.
Apple is also investing heavily into enabling augmented reality experiences through
hardware and software. With the launch of ARKit, their strategy is to empower the
millions of developers to take their AR building blocks and create immersive
experiences that are closely mapped to the real world via world tracking for both 2D
and 3D elements.
Apple is building a foundation for the future built on device level privacy, artificial
intelligence, augmented reality and multimodal computing through evolving Siri beyond
handsets into cars and the home with Homepod.
Chief Digital Officer, Agency
Building End-To-End UX
In the first half of 2017, we saw Google and Facebook shift away from
mobile, albeit in different directions as if they both discovered a fork in the
road and were forced to choose one path. Google chose AI, while
Facebook set their sight on the camera as a platform -two new directions,
two new platforms.
This year’s WWDC showed us Apple chose to keep heading straight,
unwilling to depart from their original course of focusing on hardware,
apps, privacy, and the end-user experience.
We saw Siri’s intelligence shift from reactive to predictive on both the
iPhone and Watch, Safari leverage machine learning for privacy and
website performance optimization, Amazon Prime TV launch on tvOS, the
App store redesigned to look more like Apple News, and finally their Echo
and Google Home competitor, HomePod, that cautiously emphasizes
sound over speech.
Implications: Apple focuses on hardware and enabling consumer
experience via apps over traditional advertising. For brand marketers,
building experiences means forgoing traditional advertising models and
focusing more on building end user experiences that tap into three core
behavioral territories of empower, enhance and feel.
Apple is laser focused on creating a seamless end-to-end
consumer centric user experience
Empower Through Apps
Apple began this years WWDC with an apocalyptic view of a world without apps.
To ensure this dystopian future never exists, apps became more central to the iOS
experience as a way to empower device centric content creation and sharing.
This fall the App store will receive a redesign that makes apps more discoverable
via curation, highlights and contextual recommendations. Apple didn’t stop with
only the App store.
Apple is also enhancing elements of iMessage’s app drawer, while subtle is’s a
significant step forward. Social messaging has overtaken social media as a core
social behavior so it makes sense that Apple wants to push Apps as the foundation
to create and share content within the iMessage experience.
Next, Apple, seeing the popularity of image effects upgraded their photos app to
include loops, bouncing, more filters and long exposures to give their customers
more creative freedom via their device.
Implications: Apple’s continued focus on making Apps the foundation for
consumer empowerment and device specific behaviors is not surprising. Apps
represented the second largest revenue stream for Apple. For brand marketers it’s
important to define a strategy that takes into consideration all of the various ways
to connect with consumers. Be it in app, through an app network, enabling
experiences via iMessage or through the new ARKit. Apple is creating multiple
points to connect with consumers
Apple is redesigning multiple facets of how consumers will interact, discovery and
engage with apps
Apple has stood as one of the few large tech organizations that has
user privacy at the center of their product experiences.
During WWDC 2017, Apple announced a number of privacy related
statements tied to cracking down on intelligent tracking activities on
the desktop version of safari as well as changes to how autoplay
videos will respond in by stopping autoplay.
Additionally, Apple showcased how they are using artificial
intelligence to process personal data directly on the phone vs. being
sent to remote servers.
Voice interactions with Siri via HomePod will also be encrypted and
removes any personally identifiable information.
Implications: The current announcements are tied directly to safari
on MacOS (desktop only) and do not impact mobile advertising at
this time. One key takeaway though is to always focus on creating
relevant and highly contextual advertising that will engage directly
with a consumer and either entertain, or meet a known need state.
Good creative will breakthrough.
Apple is turning to Artificial Intelligence to further drive
their approach to differentiated privacy
P2P Payments Via Apple Pay
One of the bigger iOS 11 announcements was that Apple Pay will
support person-to-person (P2P) payments. The really smart play
here is that Apple is embedding P2P payments directly within
This will allow Apple Pay to compete with various services from
PayPal, Venmo, and Square. Because Apple is facilitating this
through it’s own digital debit card, this can compete directly with
banks and services that offer quick P2P payments.
Apple’s P2P offering is currently only available in the US, but there
has been a rapid rise in P2P services that do not use traditional
currency as part of a P2P exchange. In South America, there are
P2P services that are based on phone minutes as the currency.
Implications: Initially, the Apple Pay P2P feature will be limited to
users of iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch, but this is a bold
move by Apple as they grow their physical retail footprint to attract
younger consumers that don’t already have a traditional debit or
credit card.Apple views Apple Pay as a long game to attack younger consumers and possibly
disrupt the traditional banking relationship
Apple announced Siri Intelligence, an upgrade to the artificially
intelligent assistant that facilitates actions driven by an enhanced
contextual understanding of what takes place both on and off the
Utilizing a suite of machine learning (ML) tools including Machine
Vision and Natural Language Processing built into a platform called
CoreML, Apple is able to deploy features that automatically enhance
activities through an understanding of the next desired action and how
to apply the desired effect.
Apple is making the shift from pushing Siri as a voice assistant, to a
fully embedded AI that extends throughout the device ecosystem.
Implications: Apple devices are becoming increasingly aware of
context, which gets them ever closer to providing the predictive
assistance inherent in the promise of AI. This also means that content
will be increasingly filtered by algorithms and delivered to the user
without them ever going to a search engine, or browsing the web
Apple is looking to evolve Siri across consumer touchpoints. From in home, TV,
smartphones, wearables, automobiles.
Siri + Contextual Awareness
The new suite of APIs and SDKs are also enhancing Siri’s
presence across Apple’s suite of smart devices, enabling the
Apple Watch to auto play workout music, and provide the user
with contextually relevant information on its watch face.
Apple also announced the ability for iOS to allow for two-way
data exchange between the watch and gym equipment.
Other examples of contextual awareness include providing an
auto-response while driving, to adding foreign words to
iMessage’s Autocorrect based on your Safari browsing history,
Apple devices will aim to be one step ahead of the user.
Implications: Thankfully, Apple isn’t keeping all of this great tech
to themselves. They’re opening access to many of these SDKs
and APIs to the developer communities, which will allow them to
apply machine learning to their own data sets on the device itself,
while provide all sorts of new use cases and features to Apple
Apple is on a path to predictive experiences by enhancing Siri across Apple
For the past year, Tim Cook has been hinting at Apple moving into the AR
space. Apple took the same approach as Google did with their Project
Tango and released their ARKit for third-party developers.
Unlike project Tango, which will be available on a few Android devices,
ARKit will be available on all iPhones and iPads, making it the largest AR
AR kit was very impressive allowing for fast and stable motion tracking that
makes objects fit snugly into their environment, instead of just hovering
above them like Pokeman Go’s monsters. AR Kit taps into the iPads and
iPhones advanced sensors to map surfaces and place objects from a
On the the other end of the immersive experience, Apple announced High
Sierra (MacOS) will support external graphics hardware to allow users
connect their HTC Vive or Oculus headsets.
Implications: Today’s announcements shows Apple is laying the
foundation for Augmented Reality. AR is considered the next consumer
platform after mobile so it’s important Apple has a stake in the hardware
market to remain competitive and aligned with their business model.
For brand marketers, the key will be to leverage AR platforms whether it’s
the AR kit or Unity 3D engine to start building and testing AR experiences
that can be ported to multiple devices and experiences.
Apple views Augmented Reality as a core part of their
hardware strategy moving forward
One of the lone new hardware announcements at WWDC came in the
form of the HomePod. The HomePod is Apple’s entry into the hotly
contested smart speaker race and with a $349 price point, the
HomePod is targeting a very specific segment of the market.
The newly announced HomePod will also leverage Siri to answer
queries similar to the Amazon Echo and Google Home while
leveraging machine learning to take the music experience to new
heights with features like 3D beam-forming and spatial sound.
Implications: While the HomePod is aesthetically stunning, one of the
core elements that was missing from the launch presentation is a
marketers ability to create skills or actions via SiriKit for the HomePod.
SiriKit allows access to certain API’s within Siri to integrate various
functions across iOS, but brand enablement via HomePod use cases
is currently TBD.
Brands will have to prepare for a future where more content is
requested via voice and navigation may not include a browser. On the
other hand, Apple is now providing brands extremely powerful ML and
AI tools that require only a few lines of code to embed within their
apps, opening up a whole new world of data activation.
Apple has officially entered the smart speaker market