Predictions About Apple’s WWDC Announcements are Actually Valuable

4 minute read
| Particle Debris

There is a perspective that says it’s pointless for the pros to predict what Apple will say in the WWDC Keynote, but it’s just plain wrong.

Fortuneteller

Of course, no one can know the future. And there have been some spectacular flubs when it comes to predicting the elements of the WWDC keynote. So why do we journalists bother?

The authors of the book The Cluetrain Manifesto point out that “markets are conversations.” When informed, expert journalists talk about what Apple might discuss at the keynote, they’re not padding themselves on the back with their acumen at prognostication.

Instead, as I wrote this week, they’re building on a collective, community knowledge base about what they and their readers would like to see from Apple. Sometimes those wishes are self-serving in that they tantalize the reader with a juicy headline. The conceit that the reader may find out something delicious about Apple’s plans is a powerful one. In practice, we know better.

In general, the predictions by expert journalists is mostly a reflection of what they’ve learned from their readers and perhaps podcast guests since the last WWDC. This conversation can contain valuable insights for Apple, if it has a mind to listen.

Of course, the other side of that coin is the legacy of Steve Jobs. We are also fond of the notion that Apple knows what we need before we know it ourselves. When the One More Thing is revealed, we gasp and declare: “Of course! Wow!”

But we must also recall that the One More Thing surprise was one method Steve Jobs used to bring a company back from the dead. Today, Apple is thriving and successful. It has entered a mature stage. And, in that maturity, it’s also important for Apple to listen to customer needs even as it relentlessly moves technology forward.

So when you read really great articles like “WWDC 2017: Apple Has a Lot to Talk About This Year,” by Jonny Evans and “Here’s What to Expect at Apple’s WWDC 2017 Keynote,” by Jeff Gamet, don’t focus on how wrong they might be. Instead, take these thoughts as inspiration to help you formulate your own directions and needs. And then see how those personal reflections fit with Apple’s actual keynote.

In some cases, Apple will surprise. In some cases, it will disappoint. But our wisdom and perspectives evolve in the process.

Next Page: The News Debris For The Week Of May 29th. Net Neutrality is dead. Time to mourn.

2 Comments Add a comment

  1. wab95

    John:

    You’ve very nicely articulated the spirit, rationale and expectation with which we should approach these Apple keynotes, particularly in the era of a mature and highly successful tech behemoth.

    True, pundits and fans alike, when engaged in product prediction, are having an important conversation about what they would like, and Apple no doubt scans those discussions, although what they do with them is another matter. Given the long tail of product development, I don’t see Apple adjusting their rollout based on this chatter, but rather bracing themselves for impact when they observe a profound disconnect and having internal discussions about addressing those needs in future within the scope of their development pipeline (e.g. ‘No on the netbook; but how about an iPad?’).

    Expectations will vary across the spectrum, and some simply aren’t worth a moment’s reflection by a serious company. For example, were yours truly to express his real wish for the laptop of choice…(buckle up) it would be for a quantum device, supported by a Siri or AI interface, that is truly anticipatory. I could say, ‘Okay Siri, let’s write a grant proposal’; and she would say, ‘What shall we write about today?’, to which I would respond, ‘A proposal on phase 2 of project X’. Siri would scan my database across all hardware devices and cloud storage sites, and, nanoseconds later, reply ‘Ready’. With but a few opening keystrokes or dictated words, Siri would clue into where I’m going with this, and just like word suggestion on the iPhone – but on Incredible Hulk – busting steroids, respond with whole thought streams fit into paragraphs of prose, drawing from either my actual previous writings, works or recorded thoughts, or simply my writing style. Siri would provide me with whole thought-stream options at breakpoints; ‘Shall we go with thought option A or B?’ allowing me to select the next thought sequence, and by simply following where my eye alights and my pupil dilates with acceptance, chooses that option, and again, whole paragraphs of perfect text appear. If Siri detects stress, such as elevated blood pressure or heart rate on my Apple watch, or the release of stress hormones, she could pause and query for refinement. Moving on, my and my colleagues’ CVs are updated with our latest activities and publications, and fitted into the correct format for the application. Budgets, with my mere specification of categories and costs, auto-populate with running tallies of costs and overhead. Oh my! And by the time my coffee cools or I’m ready for lunch, whichever comes first, my proposal is done, and I can be ready for the next feat to the day. That’s my machine of choice.

    Now, let me put down the peyote and the opium pipe and come back to reality and the discussion at hand.

    You’ve rightly addressed the issue of managing expectations. To this, let me add, when it comes to Apple and anticipated products and services, we should consider two things in order to manage our expectations: trends and context. What do these mean? The first, trends, suggests that we look at the trajectory, pace, features and capabilities of a given product, and adjust expectations to the next likely step in extending those capabilities, but in keeping with precedent as to both consumer need and Apple’s history with respect to adopting newer capability. Specifically, bearing in mind that Apple practically never adopt a technology that cannot provide a consistent user experience, and is secure, however attractive it might be. Another historical precedent is that Apple are not likely to adopt a technology that will dramatically lessen battery life or performance speed. And finally, that technology must meet or beat Apple’s current security standards, without compromising that of the ecosystem.

    As for platform enrichment, this is the context in which evolving or new products and services are rolled out. The Apple Watch, for example, is meant to be Apple’s most personal product. It is reasonable to expect that Apple will extend the AW’s personal monitoring capability (e.g. Personal health indicators like blood glucose, specific proteins and by-products related to acute and chronic life threatening conditions), but not reasonable to expect Apple to add a new tech feature, like video recording, which could impair battery life and increase size, simply because a competitor might do so. Another example might be an emerging or unmet consumer need; like more powerful AI capability at the point of maximum impact or usefulness. Anticipate greater Siri capability and function on devices like the AW or the iPhone – devices that the user is likely to nearly always have available, but whose power and capability can be greatly extended by a more powerful but secure AI.

    In my view, and according to my observational experience, these two qualifiers, trend and context, allow one to not simply manage expectations, but when inevitably greeted with the unexpected, provide a rational reference frame from which to assess which consumer need has been addressed, objectively weigh its value proposition, and then make an evidence-based determination as to whether that need has been satisfactorily met, even if not in the way one might have expected.

    And in the last analysis, be ready to actually see, touch and play with it before declaring it to be a failure, and a portent of Apple’s impending doom.

  2. ibuck

    JM: “the ability of these men to stick, instinctively, with a clear personal vision, and yet have the judgement, grace, and perspective to be properly corrected or adapt to a new situation when necessary. We all need to do that in our work.”

    Yep, not just in work, but in many, if not all, parts of our life.

    By the way, good comments by wab95, especially the last 2 paragraphs. But it seems that 95% of those “reporting news and views” online regularly neglect to do that. They zoom past any possible conceptual flaw that may have driven larger screens and accompany bigger batteries—like fires that burn down cars, houses or divert flights.

Add a Comment

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter, Facebook) or Register for a TMO Account