Monday, July 7, 2014

Apple's Big Innovation At WWDC: Letting Apps Talk To Each Other

If the technology community was hoping for new innovations from Apple AAPL +0.66% at its annual WWDC keynote on Monday, they’ll find as much of it in the dull, backend infrastructure to iOS 8 apps as they will in the cool stuff consumers see everyday.
Apple seemed to borrow heavily from other popular services like Dropbox and WhatsApp to enhance the consumer-facing features it had in Mail and iMessage. In fact, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum sarcastically used the hashtag #innovation when he tweeted today that he was “flattered” to see Apple using so many features that were just like the ones on his service.

Are Apple’s newest features copycat catch-ups?
Two of the most important features:
1) App Extensions – this feature lets apps interact with each other without compromising their users’ security, essentially acting like plug-ins, or “extensions” to other native services. That way when a user installs an app that has an extension, they can interact with the app while running other apps — for instance using a photo editing app within Photos, Apple’s default photo gallery.
2) Widgets – Apple is showing some newfound openness by sharing slices of real estate on native services like the Safari browser and Siri to third-party apps. Today’s demo showed how an app like ESPN could display the latest scores on  the iPhone’s notifications dashboard, while song recognition app Shazam could plug into Siri so that users could buy a song directly through the iPhone’s virtual assistant.
To consumers these might sound like minor tweaks, but developers say they could be the answer to their growing “discovery” problem – where with more than 800,000 apps available for iOS it’s becoming harder and harder to get noticed by customers.
It also feeds into a trend already in play with other tech companies like Facebook and messaging platform Layer, which are creating back-end platforms that work in the background to enable app-to-app communication.Facebook for instance, recently offered tools to app developers like analytics, identifiers and push notifications that allowed them to link with one another.  Rather than be a gateway to these apps, it seems that Facebook wants to become the fabric that binds them.
Apple seems to have a similar strategy in play, while offering apps a greater prospect of scale. “You can create a utility that can be used across the operating system,” said Nick D’Aloisio, who won an Apple design award today for his app, Yahoo YHOO +0.74% News Digest. The service would have come in handy with D’Aloisio’s first app, Trimmit, which automatically summarized text that people were reading in Safari or other apps. “They would have to close that, and opened another app. I was craving this feature for years.” Extensions and widgets were “two new categories here of services that didn’t exist before today,” he added.
It’ll be months before these feature are implemented on iPhone apps, but the result might be more multitasking within apps, and much less closing and re-opening.
This idea of multitasking occurs again with Apple’s new Interactive Notification feature, revealed today. When a user gets a text while in the middle of an iPhone game, they can pull down a tab to reply without closing the game. “You don’t have to leave the app,” said Apple’s software VP Craig Federighi, who demonstrated on Monday how users could also “like” a Facebook notification from within an app.
Extensions and widgets could give apps more exposure to more people, but it’s unclear how developers would make money from what are essentially plug-ins to other apps and Apple services. There’s likely no cut of ad revenue for Apple to share since it doesn’t show ads in native services like Photos or Siri.
Apple may simply argue that greater exposure through extensions will translate to more downloads if a service is good enough.
Source : forbes

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