I wasn’t always an Apple fan. I just switched from Windows a few years ago. That's why I carefully watched this morning's much-anticipated Apple World Wide Developers Conference. This is an annual meeting Apple holds with software folks to give them a heads-up about its latest plans. It's usually a sneak peek into Apple's direction and a preview of what new gadgets we may see this fall.
I wanted to be impressed. But once you cut through the hype and pounding music in the San Francisco Moscone Center, what's left is neither innovative nor surprising. I'm sorry to say that I was not wowed. True, while there were a number of small, incremental improvements in Mac and iPhone operating systems, there were no game changers. Even worse, the one thing that was supposed to be the big headline turned out to be a mishmash that I think will be a hard sell for users to accept.
No doubt, Steve Jobs was an incredible innovator at Apple. From the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad, he brought us magical things we didn't know we needed and couldn't live without. Now with his loss, I didn't see that same spark in today's keynote address.
Now don't get me wrong. Apple is THE most valuable company in the world, worth nearly $700 billion dollars. I doubt that will change much very soon. But Apple achieved that amazing success by inventing new gadgets that became the must-haves envied by most. Apple's latest gadget in the post Steve Jobs era has been its Apple Watch. I bought one. I'll share my Watch experience with you.
I'm sure by now you've heard of Apple's Watch. It's a gadget on your wrist that syncs with your iPhone for messages and phone calls, plus offers some special apps for fitness, exercise and other categories. They range in price from a considerable $350 to an outrageous $17,000. I ordered mine early and received it in the first wave of Watch deliveries.
True story: When my Apple Watch arrived, I wore it for a few hours before I asked my teenage son if he wanted it. And the answer was no. Ouch. Not exactly an innovative must-have.
So today's WWDC was an opportunity to win back my enthusiasm. Instead, it fell flat.
iPhones and iPads will get the next generation operating system, iOS 9, this fall. It will be a free upgrade for users. Apple still has to live down the disastrous release of iOS 8 last fall. iOS 8 crashed phones and was too big for many users to download. Apple seems to have learned a painful lesson by pointing out that the install for iOS 9 will "only" be 2GB. That's very nice that Apple's latest and greatest hopefully won't crash your gadget. Other iOS 9 announcements include longer battery life - that's nice - and some enhancements to the voice-activated assistant, Siri. But here's a problem. Android's Google Now already does much of what Apple will release for Siri later this year. Strike one for innovation.
On Apple's top-of-the-line iPads, iOS 9 will allow multiple apps and working windows on the same screen. Microsoft's tablets have been multitasking since Windows 8 released in August 2012.
Then there's Apple's announcement of "News." This new app tracks your news reading so it can find additional articles you may enjoy. Again, this is nice. But apps like Flipboard have been doing this for a while. Apple didn't show why News would be any better than Flipboard.
Apple also rolled out its newest operating system for Mac computers. The new version available for free upgrades this fall is dubbed OS X El Capitan. The company showed off some handy little additions, and some tweaking deep inside OS X is supposed to make it run faster with longer battery life. But I didn't see anything headline-worthy in the latest Mac software.
However, what was supposed to be the really big news leaves me dumbfounded. Apple Music is positioned as the ultimate music experience. Apple has some serious history with music. Many years ago, Steve Jobs wrangled the chaotic, illegal MP3 world into iPods and iTunes as a legal marketplace selling nearly any song for just 99 cents. Apple's success here literally changed the music business.
Today, Apple rolled out its newest service, Music. It strikes me as a mishmash of playlists, streaming services, indie bands publishing their own music and perhaps more. You, too, can become a Music customer for just $10 each month, or $15 for your entire family starting June 30th. But streaming music is not exactly new. Millions use Spotify, Pandora and others, most for free.
Apple did not convince me why its new service is worth well north of $100 per year against the free competitors that are already well established.
Bottom line is that everything Apple announced is either already available from competitors, or is such a small improvement that they are far from impressive. I sincerely hope Apple can do better.