This past May, I argued that augmented reality, where digital objects are imposed upon the user's physical world, would reach a broad audience faster than virtual reality, where users are transported into an entirely digital environment. I also said that Apple would the company to move AR forward. Here's what I wrote at the time: Which company will be the first to create an AR platform with mass appeal? My best guess is Apple, given the way it attacks markets with new software platforms that it then uses to sell hardware. Of course, Apple is rarely first to market with emerging technologies, and rivals like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon won't be far behind.
After Apple's WWDC keynote last month, some reporters asked me if Apple's new additions to Siri are reactionary. They assumed that since Amazon, Google and Microsoft have upped the intelligence of their voice assistants, Apple was forced to make Siri more competitive. But to think that Apple's Siri improvements are reactionary shows a lack of understanding about the company's work in artificial intelligence (AI). Apple has been working on speech and voice AI solutions for decades. In fact, in 1992, I got involved with the earliest version of its voice technology research, which was tied to an early AI and machine learning engine.
One of the hallmarks of Silicon Valley companies is that they tend to increase their research and development (R&D) budget during tough times, not shrink them. Facing a slowdown in iPhone sales and other tribulations, Apple is on track to spend 10 billion on R&D this year, a 30% increase from 2015. If you look at Apple's recent financial report, you know the Cupertino, Calif. But what spooked Wall Street is that it's clear that Apple's iPhone sales trajectory has leveled out. Sales of iPhones during the last quarter were only about 54 million, compared to over 70 million in the same quarter a year before.
As one of our mobility analysts at Blue Hill, I get (perhaps unduly) excited over any shiny new gadget, even though I've recently been disappointed by what seems like a lack of innovation in the mobile market (cue the "I miss the old Apple" rant). That's why I was excited, but skeptical, to cover Google's October 4th product announcement of its long anticipated "first" smartphone. But it's really not the hardware Google is focusing on with its most recent product launch, though it could certainly seem that way from its unveiling of the Pixel (the first Google branded smartphone), the Daydream View virtual reality (VR) headset, and the Google Home smart hub. No, it hasn't been about hardware for the past few years for mobile device manufacturers it certainly seems, with only small incremental changes being made to hardware (or, in the case of Apple's removal of the headphone jack, gigantic leaps and bounds of courage … but that's another story). Most of the focus of smartphone innovation instead has been coming from within: with the software, and most recently, artificial intelligence.