WWDC preview: For Apple, it's all about platforms now

Integration is the key and developers are the glue

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  • A next-generation Apple TV with greater capabilities and possibly its own app SDK and marketplace.
  • Official acknowledgment of an iWatch, if not substantial details about it.
  • New, larger iPhone models and the addition of Touch ID to all future iOS devices.
  • A refreshed iMac lineup at lower prices than current models.

Looking through that list, there's a consistent thread of solutions that aggregate data or content from varying sources and make it actionable on the part of users.

A home automation and media system, for which Apple just filed a patent application, would be a logical extension of the current Apple TV. A device connected to a home network that supports wired network, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity could aggregate a vast array of smart devices from light bulbs to deadbolts because it encompasses the handful of technologies used by the manufacturers of such products. A single interface, in this case likely a new version of an Apple TV that is more of an appliance than an iOS device -- or even a desktop Mac -- would be a great solution for a single point of control and offer a unified interface for users. Such a system could also rely on Apple's iBeacon support as a mechanism for automating home functions based on proximity to an iOS device as well as broadcast data to users.

The idea of aggregating wellness, fitness and medical data into a single device would likely rely on a similar convergence of technologies. Although there are rumors that Apple is building a sensor array into an iWatch that could handle everything from activity to blood glucose, blood pressure, respiration and even sleep tracking (Samsung is also developing such a device), there's already a range of connected devices that people use to collect this data. Among the devices already in use are various activity trackers, Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitors and Wi-Fi enabled scales. In addition to building its own hardware, Apple could attract a great many more users by accepting data from these devices -- and it would allow Apple to build mind share and market share before an iWatch comes to market.

Apple has already expanded on what location services can do with iBeacons. Integrating iBeacons in the home or in a variety of professional and commercial settings allows for a great deal of context-awareness on the part of iOS devices, particularly as the range and capability of beacon hardware expands. Combine that with the location data already available to iOS devices, indoor positioning systems and much improved map capabilities and you have an immense level of context for iOS devices to use. Apple could either use the data on it own or pair it with other technologies involving home automation, health or fitness data capture, CarPlay and services like iCloud. (This also plays into an area Apple has long been expected to make a move: mobile payments.)

What's it all mean? You can think of this Apple experience as an omnipresent Apple platform or infrastructure. Like most platforms, the real power and innovation isn't going to come from Apple alone, but from developers who would have access to an infrastructure that extends far beyond iOS and OS X. If this is, indeed, the course Apple is setting, then it will do more than create new product categories or disrupt existing industries.

It will transform how we live.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. He has been a Computerworld columnist since 2003 and is a frequent contributor to CITEworld.com. Faas is also the author of iPhone for Work (Apress, 2009). You can find out more about him at RyanFaas.com and follow him on Twitter (@ryanfaas).

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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