WWDC 2015 Unwrapped: Analysts Weigh In on Apple's Moves

NEWS ANALYSIS: Analysts share their impressions of this year's WWDC announcements, from Apple Music to OS improvements, Apple Watch updates and more.

Apple, WWDC, Apple Pay, Apple Music, analysts, Apple Watch, iOS 9, OS X El Capitan

Apple had a lot to unveil as it opened its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 8 in San Francisco, with news about the next version of its OS X operating system, updates for iOS 9 and plenty of excitement about Apple Music, Apple Pay and Apple Watch. It was a lot to take in during a more than two-hour keynote presentation.

So what did a sampling of industry analysts think about the news out of WWDC?

It depends.

"Apple has become such a huge entity that anytime they do anything in public the expectation is that they are going to announce 'the next big thing,'" Charles King, president and principal analyst of Pund-IT, told eWEEK. "But I really didn't see 'the next big thing' yesterday," he added.

What he did see was the promise of a 40 percent improvement in the performance of the next version of Mac OS X El Capitan, which will certainly make an impact for users, said King. "End users are likely to recognize and appreciate" an improvement with that much impact.

What was a bit less exciting, he said, was Apple's announcement that it is finally bringing transit directions to iOS9 for a few cities to start, because Google has already been providing such directions to users for some time. "That's good news, but it's not exactly a head-turner," said King.

Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of Enderle Group, told eWEEK that Apple "made solid moves with the operating systems," with OS X El Capitan "closing some of the old competitive gaps with Windows and iOS [closing some performance gaps] with Android. True performance gains and multitasking improvements were likely the most appreciated," he added.

Some of the new features that Apple offered previews of for iOS 9, such as split-screen views, indicate that Apple is planning a larger professional-class iPad, said Enderle. At the same time, improvements in Apple's Siri personal digital assistant "close the gap with [Microsoft's] Cortana, which puts the ball back in Microsoft’s court," he said.

Analysts Talk About Apple Music

King's reaction to Apple's announcement of its upcoming Apple Music streaming service, which will begin June 30 at $9.99 a month for individual users, was also a bit low-key. "Again, Apple is jumping into the pond," he said. "The company is so large that it's going to make a splash, but I didn't see anything that's much better than what you can find with Spotify or Pandora."

At the same time, since the company is expanding the availability of the new music service to all of its devices, "it has the possibility of creating a unified user experience" that could ultimately make it a success, said King. "I think it's very wise that Apple is getting into the streaming music business. I don't have enough experience to say whether the company has any kind of secret sauce to add to the mix."

Richard Windsor, an analyst with Edison Investment Research, told eWEEK he's not sure he agrees with Apple's intentions on using Apple Music to help music fans communicate directly with their favorite musicians. "Edison's research strongly indicates that this is not what artists want," he wrote. "Artists want to know who is buying or listening to their music, when and why. They also want to be able to communicate with them directly to be sure that their fans have all the information about that artist, new releases, concerts and so on. Apple Music is a reasonably closed system where users have a relationship with Apple but not with each other. This is the big difference between Spotify and Apple."

Windsor wrote that his "initial view of the user experience looks no better than anything offered by Spotify, Pandora or Rdio, and Spotify, in particular, has a raft of cool features, such as track preview, in its experience that Apple Music does not have."

Apple Watch Thoughts

Apple Watch was also a big part of the WWDC opening keynote, with announcements about upcoming new features and a whole new operating system just two months after the devices launched in April.

To King, the mention of the upcoming watchOS 2 operating system is real-world evidence that you should never buy the first version of any new product, he said. "It really won't surprise me to see updates of this kind happen on a fairly frequent basis. The wearables market is so early that vendors and end users are really trying to figure out what's going on. It's quick to see version 2 of the operating system already. I doubt it will be only one in 2015."

Enderle agreed. "The Watch remains problematic, but they did introduce some features that should have been there at launch, like screen customizations and native apps," he said. "The audience seemed unexcited, suggesting this platform has a long way to go."