First and foremost: I don’t really care about the AirPower not being announced. Now, that this is cleared out of the way, let’s proceed and dig in.
About The Keynote Itself
This keynote was close to two hours. It didn’t fell that long to me. I really liked it. The introduction video was a nice reminder about Apple’s past successes. It was also a reminder of what Apple is all about today, not about the future. You could feel that this event was dear to Tim Cook’s heart. This keynote could be seen as a good illustration of his legacy at Apple: services. The introductory definition of services was on point with a reminder of how current services are experienced across Apple devices. At every steps of the keynote, Apple put emphasis on how private and secure their offerings are in a coherent way. This is one of their current competitive advantage. In summary, this is all about combining hardware, software and services with clear goals in mind.
About Apple News Apple News+
The magazine stuff is cool and more than tempting. At $ 9.99 per month to get access to 300 magazines and available to family sharing seems to be a no brainer for me. The Apple touch was added to live covers with a great example with National Geographic. It is not revolutionary but it is a nice touch nonetheless. This is what Newsstand should have been at the beginning a few years ago. I found curious that they would demo this stuff on the iPhone first, not the iPad which is the perfect device for this stuff. This demo could also have been made a bit shorter.
Apple News is now available in Canada, at long last. I would have thought that they would bring the service to many more countries but I think it is because their want to build their curators and editors teams carefully. And this takes time.
You could tell that a lot of comments were directed to current trends in the business of selling ads. They didn’t name Facebook for example but I could clearly see they were referring to them while speaking of curated content and click bait publishing.
About Apple Pay
This is probably the best part of the keynote. This is where Apple showed what they do best: entering a market to push it to another level. iOS 12.2 brings a few useful improvements to the wallet app. But, the most interesting part is the Apple Card, an Apple branded credit card with a lot of game changing attributes: instant activation, support available in Messages, improved credit card statements with machine learning done on the local device with more complete business name, geographically positioned transaction summary, accepted worldwide. That is so obvious stuff, but it took Apple to address this.
The rewards program is nice and clear. No fussing with points. Cash back program is called “Daily Cash” and the whole thing is very cool. Daily cash amounts are transferred to the Apple Pay cash card and can be used instantly instead of having to wait next month. Two percents is the basic reward. It goes up to 3% when spending your money on Apple stuff with Apple Pay. On the payment side, Apple is providing a clear way to know how paying your balance will improve your bottom line and skip paying too much interests. Plus, there is no annual fees, no late fees, no international fees and no over-limit fees. Plus, Apple doesn’t know what you bought and so can’t sell this information to advertisers because most of the processing is done on the device. And for places where electronic payments via Apple Pay isn’t possible, you will use the new physical credit card that looks gorgeous (no numbers, no CVV, no expiration date, no signature, only your name). Wow. The major deal breaker: only available in the US. Damn. But, this graphic for spending categories is hard to understand. They need to fix this.
About Apple Arcade
A game subscription service that surely will change the App Store landscape in the next few years. The jury is still out though if this is a good move or not. The service will come later this year. I expect Apple to gather feedbacks at their upcoming WWDC developers conference coming in June. This could also explain why no pricing has been announced. On paper, I like the idea because it should promote great quality games, a premium App Store for games if you like. I hate in-app purchases to unlock new levels or get access to new things within a game. Apple is trying to remove friction in this area. Plus, games will have to support all devices and save game state to iCloud. And, this is not a game streaming platform so you can play offline. So far, I’m in.
About Apple TV
First, Apple is redesigning the Apple TV app starting with the app icon which I really like. From what we are seeing, I think the app provides a better experience. This is coming in May. I think the next few days will bring iOS 12.3 beta opening in order to test the new Apple TV app.
Streaming apps that support Apply TV will be available in there. Channels providers supporting the platform will also be accessible from Apple TV app. Next, iTunes movies. I’m surprised to see this under the iTunes branding. This could be a transitioning phase though. The new design looks nicer. I’m still convinced this app should have been the default environment of the Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K device, applications tiles being only, like on the Apple Watch, just a second layer underneath. In a smart move, Apple will be releasing the Apple TV app on some other platforms: on macOS this fall (another Marzipan app), on a few SmartTV from Samsung, LG, Vision and Sony. Roku and Amazon will also be on board. Apple is skipping Android it seems. Expect a major rollout in more than 100 countries.
I like the idea of not trying to do the most shows but only the best just like they do for hardware products. This segment of the keynote was very inspiring. Then there was the unveiling of people involved in the TV shows coming from a dark room lighting up starting with Steven Spielberg. That was great story telling. The service will rollout later this year.
All in all, I think this was a solid keynote for Apple. Seeing Tim Cook dropping a few tears at the end after Oprah speech seemed genuine. I think that for Tim Cook, this keynote was his. This keynote is in fact the best representation of Tim Cook’s Apple. And, I must say that I like what I see. This may not be a popular opinion. I didn’t read any commentary posts or Twitter before writing this piece. My thoughts are really mine, not an amalgam of others.
A few more thoughts. First, there are many things that sound like Apple is targeting baby boomers. The first example is the Apple News+ with magazines subscription. Is this a thing among young people? I’m not sure. Second, the type of TV shows looks to be directed to older people too, except maybe Sesame Street. But in the middle, there is a gap, an obvious gap. Third, as for every keynote, there are a bunch of unanswered questions. Pricing for Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ are still unknown. Clearly Apple is still thinking about these. And they didn’t want people to do the maths and see how expansive these services will be as a whole. I call this basic marketing.
For an express wrap up of all the things shown and announced, head to this MacRumors page. You may read John Gruber quick thoughts too (which I don’t agree at all). Analysts reaction are summarized here.