Apple wants to establish itself as the foundation for the so-called Internet of Things. The Financial Times reports that, at its annual developer conference on June 2, the company will announce a new software platform “would turn the iPhone into a remote control for lights, security systems and other household appliances.”
It’s about time. Few companies can match the advantages Apple brings to any connected device space. It popularized the modern smartphone with the iPhone, on which many of these products rely; it kickstarted the mobile software revolution with the App Store, which many connected platform-makers have tried to emulate; and it owns some of the busiest stores in the world, which many other Internet of Things companies could never even imagine doing.
Many devices rely on smartphones. They can turn on a light, control a thermostat, and close a garage door. They can also show notifications when the front door is opened, when the basement is flooded, or when the washing machine has stopped running. The Internet of Things promises to connect many devices, but it’s currently focused on connecting them to a smartphone, which makes products like the iPhone important to the category’s development.
The Internet of Things also depends on the App Store. Unless a company wants to make someone use its mobile website every time they wish to interact with their connected devices, they have to go through the App Store to get their software into consumers’ hands. It’s that simple, and while that might offend some who believe that software shouldn’t be constrained by marketplaces controlled by one company, the App Store isn’t going away any time soon.
Finally, the category could use the boost associated with being stocked in Apple stores around the world, where millions of people walk through the whitewashed storefronts to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on new products. As Pando’s Carmel DeAmicis explained in October:
The people who choose what goes into Apple stores are like the mysterious elves with pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’ve never been able to find them for an interview, so this is just one big conjecture about their future plans.
Think about it. It has the populist favor and brand strength to lure less-techie consumers into the connected home fold. It has physical retail stores that allow people who might not be comfortable buying online to hold, look at, and ask questions about connected home devices. It has a remarkable reputation in customer service that will make people feel more comfortable buying new fangled smart products.
Apple was never going to ignore all of those advantages for long. It’s no surprise that the company plans to announce an Internet of Things platform — it would have been more surprising if it hadn’t.