TM SPECIAL: What Apple's WWDC means for UK and Spotify
This podcast is a SPECIAL episode of Tech's Message, a weekly audio download from London-based technology journalist Nate Lanxon.
This year's WWDC saw the giving out of very few new products other than Apple's supposed Spotify killer, Apple Music; but it did ask for some its toys from last year back to spruce them up and give them some new features. Mac OS X got polished, iOS 9 gained proper multitasking as it aims to push the iPad and MacBook ever closer together, several underlying programming technologies were unified across OS X and iOS, and another, Swift, was given away to the public as an open-source programming language; and the Apple Watch was given the ability to run apps independently of an iPhone -- arguably something that should've been there from the start, but hey, there was no App Store when the iPhone came out so it probably doesn't matter.
And there were some important things for the UK: we're to become the second country in which Apple Pay is officially "a thing". From July, our iPhones become Oyster cards in London. You can pay for your coffee in Starbucks with your Apple Watch and other goods in places like Lidl, M&S, The Post Office, Liberty, McDonalds, Boot, Costa coffee, Waitrose, Pret, BP garages, Subway, Wagamama, KFC, Dune, New Look, Spar and JD Sports.
You'll need a bank that's shacked up with Apple, such as First Direct, HSBC, NatWest, Nationwide Building Society, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank. Not part of this club? Don't fear, you can spend money from your watch in the Autumn when Bank of Scotland, the Halifax, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank and TSB Bank join up. You'll notice there's no Barclays. Sadly, to quote Noel Edmonds, there's No Deal from that Banker. Yet.
In the epic march towards a cashless Britain -- and indeed recent studies have shown more purchases are made in the UK now without cash than with, by a small but notable margin -- Apple's decision to turn its phones into credit and debit cards here is a timely one. 40% of all smartphones in Britain are made by Apple, meaning somewhere near 40% of all smartphone users in Britain can replace their wallet with their phone. Unless they're with Barclays. Or don't like Pret sandwiches.
Is Britain ready to pay for their travel through London's transport network using a watch instead of card or cash? I sat in a park with Ars Technica UK's editor Sebastian Anthony to find out. I also asked Sebastian his view on Apple Watch getting native apps. When the iPhone first came it, it had no app store. A little while later, Apple added the app store to the phone and now companies like Uber -- which is valued at somewhere between 40 and 50 billion dollars -- exist exclusively because of mobile apps. Are native apps what the watch needs though?
This week we also take a deeper look at Apple Music. On the surface it's Apple's Spotify. 100 countries will get access to the entire iTunes store for a subscription fee rather than paying per album or song. Yes, that includes the ability to download the songs for playback offline. There's no free streaming option though, which is arguably one of the main differences between Apple Music and Spotify -- 50 million of spotify's users do not pay for Spotify. But 25 milion now do, according to numbers Spotify released in the wake of Apple's event. Spotify works hard to bring users in on free accounts and convert them up to paying customers. It works well. Problem is, perhaps, that the ones who do pay may be tempted by Apple's service for one of a number of reasons. And those free users Spotify has pushed to the bring of paying for music may finally be tempted over the edge -- but into Apple's Atlantic, not Spotify's Baltic.
I wanted to talk more about Apple Music and one of my favourite people to discuss this with, and hear discuss such topics, is CNET.com's Luke Westaway. A technology expert and Apple commentator.
I asked him if we're beginning to see a real change in what Apple is trying to be seen as as a company.
Spotify will tell you it has paid more than $3 billion in royalties, including more than $300 million in the first three months of 2015 alone. In fact those were the exact words from a press release it issued after Apple Music's debut. It's not just about how much a service costs; streaming services need to pay labels and artists fairly and Spotify's success has meant it's got the hot seat when it comes to how much musicians can make from free or paid-for music services. Spotify's choice to comment on payments and royalties is a clear indication that it's this issue it expects Apple Music will use in its PR to get artists and subscribers on board its new service. Was Spotify's success with free ad-supported streaming ultimate a shot in its own foot long term? What has Spotify got to keep people interested despite Apple's appeal?
We also discuss the implications Apple's 2015 WWDC means for its hardware, iOS, Macs and the seemingly inevitable convergence of laptop church and slate. iOS 9 brings all sorts of multitasking, picture in picture, even an effective cursor mode for the iPad. Wasn't the iPad meant to be pretty distinctly different to a laptop? Is the iPad cannibalising the Mac?
What's weird is that Apple seems to be moving the iPad and Macs closer together despite seeing how disastrous Microsoft's attempt to do so was with the first Surface tablets running Windows 8. Obviously that was only one way to do so; maybe Microsoft just did it wrong. You wouldn't say ALL attempts to produce a crossbreed are bad after trying to breed a chimp with a miniature schnauzer. No, you'd simply remove the chimp and replace it with a terrier. Much more likely to result in happy offspring. Microsoft eventually learned this too.
So let's assume iOS 9 makes iPads better and OS X El Capitan makes next-gen MacBooks great. Is that going to make people want more iPads, or more thin and light MacBooks?
That's all discussed on this week's Tech's Message special.
Thank you to my guests Sebastian Anthony, Editor of Ars Technica UK; and Luke Westaway, senior editor at CNET.com.