Apple’s WWDC keynote: What marketers should watch for

Apple Inc.’s annual gathering of thousands of developers in San Francisco for its Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) is also one of the most-watched and most-talked about events and the tech events calendar.

Apple, as it likes to say, makes products that people love and it tends to be pretty good at keeping its lips sealed about the specifics of its new products until they are officially unveiled on stage by the CEO (with the exception of a lost iPhone prototype or two). While the WWDC keynotes have lost the “magic” of a presentation by Steve Jobs, there’s no doubt that new CEO Tim Cook will draw just as must attention as he marches out new mobile products – a new iPhone and iPad model are expected along with a major version update for iOS to iOS 8 – and who knows what else.

With the keynote kicking off WWDC June 2 at 1:00 PM ET / 10:00 AM PT, no doubt that’s what most will be interested in. But marketers charting their own course for a digital age won’t care so much just how many pixels are packed into the new iPhone’s display, or what light-bending properties the lens of the new iSight camera are. Instead, they’ll be analyzing Apple’s product and platform updates from a different perspective – pondering how it will change the way they do marketing. Apple’s magic touch can be transformative on consumer behaviour – consider how many people questioned the wisdom of launching the iPad when previous tablet PCs hadn’t succeeded. Now tablet adoption in North America is spiking and people are spending more time reading content on tablets, and more importantly spending money on them too.

Apple WWDC agenda
Apple may be secretive, but at least it has a sense of humour about it, as seen in the WWDC schedule here.

Apple will be live streaming its keynote to Apple devices. Here’s a few things marketers will be watching for:

Will iBeacon get an upgrade?

Apple actually managed to release its iBeacon protocol along with iOS 7 at its last WWDC without even mentioned the technology. The silent unveiling took place with just an appearance on a slide during the keynote. But marketers have adopted the technology and started working it into interesting location-based campaigns. The technology allows iOS devices to detect Bluetooth Low Energy devices a short distance away (several meters or more in some cases) and receive a unique identifier from them. That in turn can be used to trigger an action in an app, delivering the right message to a mobile user at the right time, in the right place. A marketer’s delight.

But there’s more to the iBeacon protocol that hasn’t been unlocked yet, and Apple hasn’t even directly addressed its own technology. There’s potential to not just have location awareness from iBeacon, but movement information from the device as well – how fast is the phone moving and in what direction? Developers can tap into the iPhone’s M7 motion coprocessor and tap data from accelerator and gyroscope sensors to glean more information about consumer intent. This snippet from Apple’s WWDC calendar may give some hints as to what is in store for iBeacon next week:

Your phone always knows where it is. Using information about a device’s location can help personalize your app and make it more engaging and memorable. Join us and talk with your peers about using location within iOS and OS X apps, your ideas, and your favorite location-based apps. Be prepared to mingle, make new connections, inspire, and talk with others about Core Location, maps, MapKit, geo-fencing, iBeacon, and everything else related to iOS and OS X apps and location.

Is Apple loyal to PassBook?

PassBook is perhaps one of the most overlooked apps that was released as part of iOS 6. It offers to organize all of your loyalty cards, tickets, and boarding passes into one digital wallet on your phone. This solves the problem of consumers going to shop at a retail store, realizing they forgot their loyalty card and abandoning their shopping experience as a result – or just getting too frustrated to opt-in to loyalty programs in the first place.

Attendees to WWDC can save their tickets to the conference to their PassBook. French marketing agency Phoceis found a way to modify its beacons to trigger an interaction with the pass, indicating that Apple may be demonstrating integration between iBeacon and PassBook. If iBeacon is to be used to facilitate mobile transactions, similar to what PayPal has done with Bluetooth Low Energy devices, then providing that ability via PassBook and tying it to automatic loyalty rewards would be a pretty powerful solution and of great interest to retail marketers.

Apple in your pocket, Apple in your car, Apple in your home

Apple’s operating systems are now reaching beyond the phone and tablet and into appliances and vehicles. As Apple builds out its platform into CarPlay, the version of iOS that many auto makers are rushing to offer drivers as their factory-installed option, marketers may suddenly have a new way to interact with consumers through their smartphones. The idea behind CarPlay is that you plug-in your smartphone (or possibly in the future, wirelessly connect it to your car) and there’s a Siri-controlled voice interface and larger touch screen designed to minimize your distraction from the road. Because of safety concerns there is also limited app functionality in this mode and Apple may be preparing to explain in more detail what sort of apps can be included on CarPlay. Marketers may be able to extend their reach even further through Apple’s devices if it unveils plans to expand its Apple TV product into a smart home appliance that can manage lights, locks, or thermostats.


Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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