While wrapping up the keynote at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, CEO Tim Cook used a familiar refrain: "You've seen how our operating systems, devices and services all work together in harmony," he said. "... This is something only Apple can do."
Cook has brought up the "only Apple" talking point before, but it's never felt this accurate. iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite don't merely ask that you use nothing but Apple hardware; they also suggest that your family and friends should do the same. You'll all have a better experience, Apple argues, when everyone's using iPhones, iPads and Macs.
There are a few layers to this strategy, and you can see them play out in iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite:
- On the personal level, if you have an iPhone, you can use a Mac or iPad to make phone calls or send text messages. You can also start doing something on one device--for instance, editing a document in iWork or writing an e-mail--and immediately pick up where you left off on another device with one click or swipe. Apple is also launching a new iOS Photos app that syncs your edits across all devices, with a Mac version coming later. Apple refers to these features as "continuity," and they only work when you own several Apple devices.
- On the family level, iOS 8 will allow a group of users to share calendar appointments, photos, reminders and even purchased apps. If you have children, they can ask you for permission to buy an app, and you can approve the purchase remotely from your iOS device. The idea is that you'll have a stronger family unit when everyone's on the same computing platform.
- Beyond you and your family, Apple has come up with more ways for Apple users to communicate among themselves. In the Messages app for iOS 8, users will be able to exchange brief audio messages and share their locations on a timed or indefinite basis. Much like FaceTime for video chat, these communications exclude users of other platforms, and they'll likely become extremely popular regardless.
The common thread here is that all these features get better as more people own more Apple products. Although Apple has benefited from network effects before--most notably in the virtuous cycle of the App Store--this is a bit different. Apple has essentially found a way for its own popularity to fuel features that no other platform has.
If I sound both excited and alarmed, that's intentional. As impressive as Apple's new software sounds, I've always tried to avoid being too invested in any one platform, and have instead relied on services that are readily available everywhere. By doing this, I've made it easy to adopt whatever hardware suits my needs, whether it's an extra-large phone, a smaller tablet or a touchscreen laptop. I've never had to wait for Apple to release the kinds of devices I want.
But with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple is taking an axe to that approach. It's come up with entirely new kinds of services that can only exist across Apple hardware. If you want those services, you need to go all-in with Apple. Tim Cook's words ring truer than ever.