Apple Loosens Developer Controls, Ushering in a New Age for Users

The thing that most excited me about Monday's World Wide Developer Conference had to be Apple opening up significant features in its platform(s) to developer, including Siri, Maps, iMessage, and to a lesser extent, the Phone app. There was a lot to be excited about from the keynote, but this particular move could be the single biggest catalyst for improved functionality in Apple devices, and it represents a significant milestone in Apple loosening some control.

Siri + Developers

WWDC 2016: Siri + Developers

The hallmark of Apple's ecosystem has always been control. It's both a strong suit and a weak point for Apple, as the company is able to keep out many nefarious and pernicious things from its walled garden, but at the same time it limits the abilities of its massive pool of incredibly talented third-party developers to innovate, to make Apple's devices better.

But now Apple has crossed that Rubicon, though it did so in a controlled manner, as Apple strikes a careful balance between open and closed. For instance, developers can use SiriKit to integrate the virtual assistant in their apps, but only if their app is in one of six categories, as detailed by Ars Technica. It remains to be seen if this is merely the first step, or the end-all, be-all in opening Siri, but I suspect the former.

Another significant change is Apple allowing developers to make apps that work inside iMessage. In one fell swoop, Apple will go from an enabler of third party messenger platforms (i.e. providing a platform in the form of the App Store) to a participant.

Whatsapp, LINE, Snapchat, and a host of other services have risen in a tidal wave of youthful trends. Each one brings something new to the table, but Apple hasn't really had a seat at that table, even though the table sits in Apple's own house. My apologies for the extended metaphor.

Now Apple can have iMessage be a direct beneficiary of some of those trends, either through copycat development or through third party services making their own iMessage extensions. This help keep Apple relevant in this burgeoning portion of the online world, and it's developers who will make that happen.

Even allowing iPhone's Phone app and Lock Screen to recognize and work with third party VOIP services and those same messaging services is a measure of Apple loosening control—and it's doing so in a very practical manner that acknowledges the changing ways people communicate in the real world.

I suspect that these developments will radically change the way we use our Apple devices, especially the iPhone. Within 6 months of iOS 10's release, I imagine we will hit one of those points where we can't imagine that time when we didn't have this or that feature.

Apple excels at delivering those moments, and by unleashing the power of the developer community, we are bound to experience more of them.