Remember the original iTunes app on the Mac and the Rip. Mix. Burn. advertising campaign? What happened? The iPod. And combined with iTunes and eventually the iTunes Music Store, the iPod changed how a generation of music lovers listened to music.
We can argue that iPhone has had a greater impact than the Mac or the iPod, though both begat the former. Apple Watch seems to be a similarly slow growing tech revolution likely to impact society as more health sensors and capabilities are embedded into the device and the band.
Just a year ago Apple was thought to have lost its mojo and fallen behind in upcoming technology like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Every major tech company involved in either AR or VR was ahead of Apple. Over the past year or so CEO Tim Cook has hinted that Apple really likes AR. Nobody paid attention to the hints until ARKit and augmented reality examples were unveiled at Apple’s WWDC presentation last spring.
All of a sudden, almost overnight, Apple has become the AR leader. Not VR. That will come obviously, but nobody does a better slow walk of new tech than Apple. AR will be a big deal long before your grandmother slaps a virtual reality screen on her head. Pokemon Go is a good example of AR technology that can be used by the masses and generate revenue and profits.
What’s the killer app?
That’s a question many tech critics ask about augmented reality as we know it today. Other than Pokemon Go and a few other apps which overlay images, animation, data, and more over a smartphone screen, where’s the killer app?
Well, what’s the iPhone’s killer app? There isn’t just one. What’s the Watch killer app? Same answer. What’s the killer app for the Mac? If different strokes for different folks matters, killer apps that everyone uses all the time no longer exist, instead, they’ve been replaced with a platform of applications– a smorgasbord, or a buffet, if you will– of functionality that varies person to person.
What is interesting is how Apple leapfrogged the competition with ARKit– the augmented reality toolkit for developers– that combines with iOS 11 to bring AR to hundreds of millions of devices almost overnight.
While Google and others have worked on advanced augmented reality tools with various sensors for a specific line of smartphone (while ignoring the growing fragmentation of its Android platform) Apple managed to get almost 90-percent of all iPhone and iPad customers on the latest iOS version, 10.x. In a couple of months Apple will roll out iOS 11 and app developers will rush to market with the first generation of ARKit-based AR applications and the new revolution will be in full swing. By this time next year, nearly 90-percent of all iPhone and iPad customers will have devices running hundreds to thousands of ARKit-based augmented reality applications.
Yes, one year is overnight, and that means nearly one billion iOS users will have access to some AR capabilities.
The next big thing is AR. The next next big thing could be Apple Glasses, another wearable product likely to arrive a year or two after augmented reality sweeps across the globe. Pokemon Go and ARKit tell us AR is here already and it’s the next big thing from Apple.