Apple has acquired WifiSLAM, a Silicon Valley-based startup that specializes in indoor GPS technology, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple has confirmed the acquisition but refused to elaborate on details, although The Wall Street Journal reports that WifiSLAM was acquired for approximately $20 million. WifiSLAM develops technology that enables mobile apps to detect the location of a user within a building. The technology is expected to be used for retail, event and social networking applications that help companies understand indoor traffic patterns within locations such as shopping malls, stores and sporting arenas. WifiSLAM reportedly has technology that can locate users to within a 2.5 meter radius of accuracy as reported in GigaOM. The acquisition is seen as a move to bolster Apple’s technology in the mapping and GPS space in order to position itself more strongly against Google, whose Google Maps technology runs on both Android and Apple devices. Google, meanwhile, is no stranger to the indoor maps space and claims more than 10,000 indoor floor plans hailing from 13 countries. Apple’s acquisition of WifiSLAM is set to complement its acquisitions of mapping technology companies such as Poly9 and C3 Technologies. Apple’s September 2012 debacle debut of its proprietary mapping technology may have driven the acquisition but the question remains as to whether the Cupertino tech giant is late to the indoor-GPS party. Meanwhile, Gartner reports that revenue from location based services such as indoor-GPS technology will reach $13.5 billion in 2015, up from approximately $2.2 billion in 2009, with most of the revenue derived from smartphone-driven advertising.
According to its Global Tech Outlook Market for 2012, Forrester Research predicts that Apple is poised to radically reconfigure the computing equipment market by serving as a disruptive force that outweighs the influence of other technology trends such as cloud computing, virtualization, mobility and Big Data.
Even though many analysts argue that Infrastructure as a Service cloud computing will reconfigure the computing equipment market, Forrester’s Global Tech Outlook Market for 2012 takes a contrary position by noting that IaaS currently enjoys limited adoption. Forrester Research understands Apple’s forthcoming disruptive influence on computer equipment as follows:
Analysts have been predicting that cloud computing — specifically, infrastructure-as a service (IaaS) — will reshape the server and storage market… Actual adoption of IaaS remains limited…The biggest disruptive force in the computer equipment market thus is not IaaS, but Apple. This is a surprise, because Apple has not and does not directly address the corporate market, while turning a wide variety of consumer technology markets upside-down. But its rapid growth in the corporate market has been the big surprise of 2011, and it will be even more of a factor in 2012.
On one hand, Apple’s influence is surprising given that its products are targeted at consumers as opposed to the enterprise. Moreover, its “rapid growth in the corporate market” marked the surprise story of 2011. Apple’s capacity to turn the “consumer technology markets upside-down” underlies its ability to tap into the corporate space from the bottom up by touching professionals that subsequently end up affecting corporate reimbursements and enterprise-wide decisions to purchase iPads for employees.
The report forecasts corporate sales for Macs and iPads as follows:
• $6 billion in Macs and $6 billion in iPads in 2011
• $9 billion in Macs and $10 billion in iPads in 2012
• $12 billion in Macs and $16 billion in iPads in 2012
According to Forrester, Apple’s ability to gain market share in the enterprise space hinges on three components:
• Corporations purchasing iPads for their employees
• Small business owners purchasing Macs and iPads and charging the purchase to corporate verticals as a business expense
• Professionals purchasing Macs and iPads and charging them to the company for which they work as a business expense
The report predicts that global market share of Wintel PCs and tablets will decline from 85% in 2011 to 70% in 2013 as follows:
• $71 billion out of a global market share of $84 billion in 2011 (85% Wintel PC and tablet market share)
• $69 billion out of a global market share of $88 billion in 2012 (78% Wintel PC and tablet market share)
• $68 billion out of a global market share of $96 billion in 2013
(70% Wintel PC and tablet market share)
Forrester’s analysis of Apple’s ascendant power in the enterprise space does well to quantify the consumerization of IT spearheaded by Apple over the last decade. Moreover, the analysis points attention to non-cloud drivers on computing equipment that have been underestimated by other IT research analyst firms in recent months. Apple’s ability to consolidate market share in the enterprise space constitutes one of the fundamental questions for contemporary technology analysts and commentators. The heart of the question about Apple’s effect on enterprise computing concerns the tension between the consumerization of IT versus price and developer-driven enterprise decisions to embrace cloud computing and big data technology.
The following text is a partial transcription of Steve Jobs’s June 6 keynote address at the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), with a specific focus on Jobs’s remarks on the iCloud. Jobs introduced the vision for Apple’s iCloud product by discussing the contemporary difficulty of synchronizing files across multiple machines and devices. Apple’s CEO goes on to describe the comapny’s vision for iCloud and the changing nature of computing, more generally. Jobs proposes to relegate the PC and Mac to just another device and provide an infrastructure for a personal computing experience that enables synchronization across multiple devices. iCloud also pushes application updates to users in a way “that just works,” thereby absolving users of the responsibility of learning about cloud computing.
Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Inc, June 6 keynote address at the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC):
“About 10 years ago we had one of our most important insights and that was, that the PC was going to become the digital hub for your digital life. What does that mean? It meant that’s where you were going to put your digital photos, where else were you going to put them? Your digital video off your digital camcorder, and of course your music. Right, you were going to acquire, in the device or potentially on your Mac, and you were going to basically sync it to the Mac, and everything was going to work fine.
And it did, for the better part of ten years, but it’s broken down in the last few years. Why?
Well, because the devices have changed. They now all have music. They now all have photos. They now all have video. And so if I acquire a song, I buy it right on my iPhone, I wanna get that to my other devices.
Right. I pick up my iPad and it doesn’t have that song on it. So I have to sync my iPhone to my Mac. Then I have to sync my other devices to the Mac to get that song but then they’ve deposited some photos on the Mac so I have to sync the iPhone again with the Mac to get those photos and keeping those devices in sync is driving us crazy. So we’ve got a great solution for this problem. And we think this solution is our next big insight. Which is we’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. Just like an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch. And we’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.
Because all these new devices have communications built into them. They can all talk to the cloud whenever they want. And so now, if I get something on my iPhone it’s sent up to the cloud immediately. Let’s say I take some pictures with it, those pictures are in the cloud, and they are now pushed down to my devices completely automatically. And now everything’s in sync with me not even having to think about it. I don’t even have to take the devices out of my pocket. I don’t have to be near my Mac or PC.
Now some people think the cloud is just a hard disk in the sky. Right, and you take a bunch of stuff and you put it in your Dropbox or your iDisk or whatever and it transfers it up to the cloud and stores it and then you drag whatever you want back out on your other devices.
We think it’s way more than that and we call it iCloud. Now iCloud stores your content in the Cloud and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. So it automatically uploads it, stores it and automatically pushes it to all your other devices. But also, it’s completely integrated with your apps and so everything happens automatically and there’s nothing new to learn. It’s just all works. It just works.”
Contemporary discussions about cloud computing typically revolve around the concepts of Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Amazon Web Services (AWS) constitutes the paradigmatic example of IaaS whereas Microsoft Azure aptly exemplifies PaaS while Salesforce.com illustrates SaaS. Where does Apple’s iCloud stand in relation to the Iaas, PaaS and SaaS trinity? Technically speaking, iCloud constitutes a SaaS application insofar as it represents a software product, delivered over the internet, that empowers users to:
•Synchronize photographs, music and iWork files across multiple devices such as iPads, iPhones and personal computers
•Remotely access iTunes or music files by matching them against iCloud’s online collection.
•Resume working where they left work on one device, upon opening a different one.
•Synchronize user settings such as passwords and browser settings across all devices.
•Enjoy free email, calendars and online storage.
•Leverage pushed updates to applications across all devices.
But taken as a whole, these features amount to a disruptive technology with the power to transform user relationships to personal computers in a way that the SaaS moniker fails to accurately capture. In other words, whereas cloud computing has traditionally acted either as a (1) platform for software development (IaaS or Paas); or (2) a mechanism for software delivery (Saas), iCloud promises to use cloud computing to create an infrastructure for personal productivity across PCs, Macs, iPads and iPhones. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs remarked in his keynote address at the 2011 WWDC conference, “We’re going to demote the PC and Mac to being a device. We’re going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”
Apple’s iCloud features all of the benefits that enterprises obtain from cloud computing in addition to some functionality specific to personal users. For example, just as enterprises often use cloud computing to harmonize updates across an ecosystem of machines, the iCloud serves the same purpose of keeping machines in sync. iCloud transforms the role of the personal computer from a platform for personal productivity to a means of inscribing upon a virtual environment for personal productivity. The personal computer becomes one point of access amongst many to an online space in which all of one’s personal productivity is performed. In other words, the iCloud promises to turn a cloud based, virtual environment into the fundamental plane for accessing music, pictures, writing, spreadsheets and more. Understood in these terms, the iCloud is less SaaS than an online space from which multiple SaaS applications originate and interact with a constellation of machines.
Read more about Apple’s iCloud, in Jobs’s own words, here.