Competition is a good thing, and Amazon just raised the bar. Amazon's Jeff Bezos wasn't satisfied with just revolutionizing shopping for books, music, movies, or anything. Today he announced the Kindle Fire Phone, a 4.7-inch Android device that is more than just a phone. Like everything Amazon does, the Fire Phone is designed to make it easier to shop, for music, movies, TV shows, and physical products. Their integrated Firefly app recognizes over 100 million items, by image or audio. There's a dedicated button for Firefly. Amazon also has an SDK to allow third-party developers to integrate with this feature. [Full disclosure, I have developed an app called AllAccess.US that recognizes logos and launches that brand's info.]
WWDC was two weeks ago, and beta versions of Apple's new operating systems iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite and of Apple TV were made available at that time. Now, Apple has made updates to those betas, including an update for Apple TV that supports iCloud Family Sharing. The Apple TV can now access content from multiple iTunes accounts in a family. Apple requires that those accounts share the same credit card, which should help with piracy concerns. However, a lot of families that let kids use iPads, iPods, and iPhones don't want them to have a credit card on file. For those users, I always recommended an iTunes gift card with a finite value. That would put a limit on purchases, however it would make them ineligible for Family Sharing.
Apple has created an entire growth industry, thanks to the App Store. But as a developer, it hasn't always been easy tracking sales, which is important for marketing, planning and pricing. In the past, I've used services such as AppViz from IdeaSwarm, AppFigures, Flurry, Distimo, and App Annie, in addition to Apple's iTunesconnect, of course. Recently, there has been a flurry (pun intended) of activity on this front.
Yogi Berra said "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." The App Store is great, because there are so many apps, but that's also what makes it a problem. It's hard to find good apps, and even harder for good app developers to stand out.
The dust hasn't even settled on Apple's mega-acquisition of Beats by Dre and Beats Music. The subscription service has been regarded as a better interface than iTunes Radio, Apple's internally developed answer to Pandora and Spotify. Now, Amazon wants to get into the act. Not satisfied selling music, books and movies, they now offer a streaming service called Prime Music. The service has over one million songs, including popular Grammy winners, so this is not a rehash of your father's old playlist.
Apple's WWDC 2014 brought a new version of iOS 8 but no new hardware. However, developers are talking about resizeable iPhone screens in the simulator. But that could refer to a "split-screen" feature, as seen on some Microsoft Windows 8 and Android devices. This feature would make it easier to copy and paste from one app to another, or just to view multiple apps simultaneously. Still, all signs point to larger screens (4.7-inch and even 5.5-inch) in the works, if only to keep up with the Android "phablet" trend.
Say "Bonjour" to the next iPhone, perhaps, thanks to French website NowhereElse.fr. The site has published photos of the alleged metal case for the next iPhone, with room for a 4.7-inch screen. Additional changes include moving the lock button from the top to the side. Apple has, to date, shied away from larger iPhone sizes because of concerns about usability in one hand. This change might be to address that concern.
Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference has come and gone. While there were plenty of surprises, like a whole new programming language called Swift, new hardware was conspicuously absent. Indeed Apple's hardware chief, Phil Schiller didn't even take the stage at the WWDC Keynote. However, Eddy Cue has been on the record days before WWDC saying "Later this year, we've got the best product pipeline that I've seen in my 25 years at Apple." All of this points to a flood of hardware releases in time for the Holidays. So what can we expect?
With the addition of Beats and Dr. Dre, Apple continues to push the idea that they know how to party. Music and musicians have always been a part of Apple, going back to Steve Jobs' love of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. It was a major dream come true for him to have them finally on iTunes, and featured in a number of Apple commercials. Jobs wasn't the only "Apple Steve" who was into music. Steve Wozniak started the unprofitable (by design) but impressive US Festival in 1982 and 1983, like Woodstock with (slightly) fewer drugs.
As an app developer, I was pleasantly surprised by the WWDC announcement of App Bundles. A developer will be able to group together a set of apps and offer them at a special combined price. Think back to the old pre-Office365 days when a consumer might buy Microsoft Office versus buying Word, Excel, and PowerPoint separately, and get a better price by doing so.