With New Software, Apple Looks to Bring Together Local Search and Commerce
Apple showed off updates to its three operating systems Monday, announcing the next iterations to both OSX and iOS as well as a new version of the operating system for Apple Watch. The updates include vast changes to core functionality as well as large updates to a handful of Apple-developed applications such as Maps, Apple Pay and Passbook.
Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, said iOS 9, the newest version of its mobile software, will be released this fall. The move comes as Apple looks to extends its lead beyond Google’s Android operating system, introduce a new device in Watch and create software to enter a host of new markets from payments to local search.
The announcements Monday also mark an important moment in the development of initiatives such as Apple Pay and Maps that many believe will play an important role in shaping the local industry. The company announced changes that reflect a much deeper push by the company to use these tools to enter competitive markets such as local search and payments, and uses its position to bring together search, discovery and transaction into a seamless local commerce experience.
Apple Pay and Square
When Tim Cook announced Apple Pay last year, many wondered whether the move would decimate payment startups. Now, it looks like Square, the merchant software firm startup by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has weathered the storm.
Apple announced a new partnership with Square Monday in which the startup will produce an NFC-enabled reader that will be able to accept Apple Pay transactions and chip-and-pin payments. The reader will help Apple address recent concerns that Apple Pay was seeing weak adoption by smaller businesses who lacked the technology to accept contactless payments.
Passbook rebranded as wallet
In addition to the new reader, Apple also announced a few changes to the software itself. Apple Pay will now support branded credit and rewards cards from merchants, allowing retailers such as Walgreens, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wegmans to begin to connect payment processing to existing loyalty programs.
These new cards will find a home in Wallet, the newly rebranded version of Apple’s Passbook application launched in 2012. The new application executes on the original vision of Passbook — a product largely ignored by Apple — creating an intelligent home for credit and loyalty cards as well as other transactional tools such as airplane boarding passes and concert tickets.
Maps and search
The launch of Maps in 2012 was a dramatic flop for Apple. The software was plagued with a number of embarassing bugs, and lacked critical features that put the applications far behind its competitor from Google. However, the company has invested heavily in the product since, and on Monday announced a new version of the software Monday and released new usage numbers that show widespread adoption of the application on Apple devices.
The updates include critical improvements to search functionality and the addition of public transportation routing. The addition of transit data should help the the applications attract more iOS users, broadening the company’s existing lead on iOS devices.
But it’s the continued investment in local search, and integration with Apple Pay, that is most interesting. The new maps applications includes richer place pages, which are discoverable through Spotlight, including rich content such as reviews and genres as well as data on which businesses accept Apple Pay. With Apple Pay adoption growing, Apple has a very realistic opportunity to bring together local search and commerce in a way that many have envisioned but few have been able to execute.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.