Even without Steve Jobs, this year's WWDC keynote still produced palpable excitement, unimaginably long lines, as well as millions of people taking some time away from their daily tasks to follow the announcements on various live blogs around the world. In reality, there wasn't anything fundamentally different about this keynote than any other: some products were announced, new software was announced, Apple touted their market share, and they painted a rosy view of what the future will be for its developers and consumers.
One aspect that many people are missing is how Apple is continuing to live out the 'mobile first' philosophy. In short, the innovation curve has flipped. Instead of innovation starting first on the desktop and then migrating to mobile devices, all innovation is starting on mobile devices and working its way back to the desktop. This is a strategic shift that Apple has committed to over the last few years, and we saw other evidence of this in the keynote on Monday. Some of this evidence and observations include:
1. New OS features seem to be first published to the mobile platform and then migrate back to OS X. This was true for iCloud, notifications, the App Store, and so on.
2. New hardware specifications start on the mobile device and then expand to laptop and finally they will presumably end up in non-mobile hardware. This has been true for the Retina display technology which started on the ultra-mobile iPhone, moved to the iPad, and now is starting to permeate the laptop line. One would expect that Apple's cinema displays would also follow suit in the future.
3. Major software development seems to be shifting away from desktop applications (such as iLife and iWork) and onto the mobile counterparts. While there have been some developments on the desktop side, the effort seems to be focused more on integrating with the newer mobile applications as opposed to introducing new desktop-only functionality.
There are obviously some areas where this strategy doesn't hold true, but in the end it seems to adequately describe the overall scope and directions of Apple's efforts. It is true that Apple updated the Mac Pro line on Monday, but it is worth noting that it never got a single mention in the keynote.
This shift has not been without its critics. You can go to one of hundreds of online forums or blog posts to see the dissatisfaction that many Apple faithful have about the future of Apple's professional desktop hardware, OS X, and Apple's professional software (such as Final Cut Pro X). In essence, Apple is doing what they have always done – moving forward in the direction they think they need to go without worrying about losing some people in the process.
The same challenge exists for many businesses today who are trying to develop an all-inclusive digital strategy that 'leaves no one out'. In the end Apple's model from WWDC shows us that this approach is in many cases, the opposite of truly ground-breaking innovation.