iPhone 2013: Apple lays foundations for future innovation

Innovation takes time. It requires foundations be in place. Apple [AAPL] is building these as it hatches wider plans.

Creating infrastructure

We knew we were expecting too much when the company introduced new iPhones last week -- but while these products are critical and their technologies foundational, it's possible the company's planning something else.

What the new devices do offer includes numerous significant iterative improvements and/or initial developments that may underpin future solutions. Alone these building blocks are interesting, but together they form a base for additional products and services.

Innovation takes time. It is quite telling that after a fairly fallow 2013, the company is still putting its framework together. Just how extensive are its plans?

Think on Cook's statement to Goldman Sach's earlier this year: "The real magic is at the intersection of hardware, software and services. This isn't something you can sign a check for. You spend decades building up the experience."

Opus Research analyst, Greg Sterling agrees: “Apple certainly recognizes that there is a broad range of possibilities with these technologies."

Planting seeds

Apple has a history of seeding features that become bigger products or services over time. Cook once observed that the success of the iPad followed that of the iPhone which was itself built on the previous success of iTunes and the iPad.

Each iterative offering lent the foundation to the next. It's no different with Apple's new smartphones: these things introduce a series of improvements that can be spun out to support other products and services.

This is what is significant about new implementations such as: Touch ID; The M7 motion-sensor; iBeacons; Siri (now out of beta); Bluetooth BLE support.

TouchID links directly with a user's Apple account, conceivably enabling future payment and ticketing technologies: in conjunction with iOS in the Car, TouchID could become your car keys.

iBeacons

iBeacons hasn't been widely discussed by Apple, but is firing up interest across the blogosphere as commentators ponder the significance of the tech.

"iBeacon builds on top of last year’s Passbook feature in iOS and now means that you might see a sale offer on your lock screen as you crossed the threshold of a store and then have checkout information appear as you approach the cashier," notes Forbes.

In conjunction with switched on marketing pros now making use of mobile apps to promote their brand, iBeacons could offer a range of ways to reach users through an elegant and (hopefully) non-invasive experience.

There's implications beyond marketing, of course: think about smart cities and their use of technology like iBeacons to implement switched on traffic, public transport and pedestrian systems.

Voice and motion

Siri has emerged from beta within iOS 7. It has new voices, a better UI, some new abilities and should process your interrogations far faster and more accurately than it did before. It should be a far more effective personal assistant. Better voice control should open up opportunities for other products, such as the mythical iWatch.

The M7 motion processor is part of the foundations Apple is putting down. This low power chip uses little energy to capture motion data in support of such things as health and fitness apps. It also helps Apple gather mapping and location data and has other features, too.

"M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot," the company explains.

At least one report also claims Apple's popping a little intelligence inside the Maps app that will use the M7 chip to figure out where your car is parked. Your phone will know where you left your vehicle when you return.

Joining the dots (or trying to)

So what do we have here? We have a connected system that's able to discern your personal position, is capable of assisting you with your tasks and answering your questions, that can also be controlled by your voice and that also enables new marketing and payment solutions.

There's a few possiblities. Tradedoubler last week announced plans to introduce a marketing system for Passbook as an option to its UK clients, high street names including Tesco, The Body Shop and Seatwave.

Tradedoubler knows that 51 percent of connected consumers are already searching for discount vouchers on their phones. The new system will let retailers push vouchers to a customer, if accepted these will be stored in Passbook for use in the shop.

That's also interesting because iBeacons will allow retailers to dispatch offers to passers-by, direct to their phones. The location-specific data collected by these devices will make it easy to, for example, only send a voucher to a potential client as they enter the door of a shop or mall.

If successful, this system will put Apple's devices into the transaction. The next step is logical: customers will feel that if they are already using their Apple device to acquire and present their coupons, then why not also use the device to pay for their goods? Apple is creating a problem it can solve with a future update, seeding the market with a secure smartphone for the meantime as it works out just where in that equation security must improve.

New product families

Apple's iBeacon implementation uses Bluetooth at its core -- a power efficient step that could enable such features on other devices. Should iWatch be equipped with iBeacons support along with an M7 motion processor, it will act as a way to add new features to existing devices.

The potential for television is also clear: navigate your set using Siri, and/or waving your arms at the TV, where they will be understood by a version of the M7 chip, capable of comprehending movement in a specific are. You can imagine a range of possibilities for games design here, also.

Innovation takes time. Apple has seeded the market with a few solutions upon which it will now hope to build future innovation. New Macs may be October's feast, but March/April could see the firm take a few steps more.

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