Developer Access to iMessage, Siri and Maps: the Local Angle

There were no new hardware announcements at the Apple developer event this morning. However there was a blizzard of software updates. The company offered WatchOS 3, new tvOS functionality, brought Siri to the Mac, Apple Pay to the web and announced 10 major new features in iOS.

Among the many new iOS capabilities or features were three conceptually tied together by the fact that they enable and encourage third party developer integration. Messages, Maps and Siri were all made accessible to developers through new APIs. These are all mobile consumer entry points with implications for local search/discovery and commerce.

Siri will now be able to accomplish more local “transactions” and so will Maps (e.g., making reservations, ordering food, ride-sharing). It remains to be seen how extensively local apps get integrated into these new channels, especially Messages. However other messaging apps (e.g., Facebook Messenger) are making a big push to be customer service, content discovery and commerce platforms.

iOS 10

The iOS 10 public beta will be available in July and the full update later this fall when the iPhone 7 is formally announced. It’s not clear how successful each of these platform plays will be. Yet each represents a new or expanded entry point for local publishers and marketers. It therefore makes sense for all players and publishers in local participate or take a close look at participating. There are generally first mover advantages.

One interesting aside here: the major platforms are de-emphasizing apps and trying to offer consumers simpler ways to access information and accomplish tasks — Apple CEO Tim Cook said that there were now two million iOS apps. Google is experimenting with app streaming and modular “instant apps” that don’t require downloads, Facebook is pushing Messenger an app alternative, Amazon is integrating “skills” (apps) into Alexa. Now even Apple appears to be “consolidating” apps with these APIs. Apple is also making notifications more functional so users can accomplish tasks without opening individual apps.

While these API moves are intended to help Apple boost and improve its products, including Siri and Maps vs. competitors, they’re also intended to provide developers with another way to reach and engage consumers. Ironically, however, if the new Siri, Maps and Messages platform strategy succeeds for Apple, it may have the “unintended consequence” of inserting a new intermediary layer between app developers and consumers — just when apps had allowed many publishers to establish a search-free relationship with their customers.

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