Apple's 2015 WWDC: Light with features, heavy on ambition

The company kicked off its flagship developer meetup with a little looking looking back and a hint of what's yet to come.

Craig Federighi
Image: James Martin/CNET

$212 billion in sales. $47.8 billion in profit. 20 million Macs sold. 60 million iPads. 210 million iPhones--all of these in just the last year. The numbers are staggering. But Apple wants to be very clear about something: this is just the beginning.

Tim Cook's keynote at Apple's 2015 Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) yesterday included lots of pomp (including a hilarious opening video suggesting what an opening musical number might look like) and a parade of executives sharing information about what's to come--including a pair of new-to-the-stage female VPs.

But even with all Apple's record-breaking success of the past year, the tone of the whole event suggested that it was scratching the surface of what's possible. Nowhere was this more true than in a 6-minute video called "The App Effect."

There wasn't a whole lot of pizzazz or huge tentpole features at the event. Instead, there was an overwhelming feeling that the company was just getting warmed up. Sure, plenty of postmortems and hot takes are floating around about the whole of the event, but this video is what jumped out at me more than all the rest--except perhaps Apple Music, which will launch to 100 countries at the end of the month, and I'll have much more to say about that when it does.

This video includes an interview with longtime Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, who looks back to the launch of the iPhone 8 years ago when there was no App Store. "There was a tremendous desire on the part of developers and customers for Apple to let third-party applications be created," Schiller says. "We all had this dream that apps were going to become really important, but it took some time to realize how it would affect everything that we care about."

When the App Store launched in July 2008, one year after the release of the first iPhone, there were just 500 apps available. Today, that number has grown to more than 1,500,000. Cook said during the keynote that the company has paid out $30 billion in sales to developers (the larger side of the 70/30 split the company has on app sales revenue).

The video has astrophysicist and internet-favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson saying the App Store might have a greater impact on civilization than the invention of the microscope. The director of the McKinsey Global Institute says the rise of the App Store is this century's industrial revolution, noting that it took electricity 100 years to reach its first 50 million users, and television 13 years--the App Store reached 50 million users in 17 months.

Looking at this video, looking at Apple's development of ResearchKit and how it's working to protect the environment, we can see how Apple is aware of the past but encouraging all of us to look firmly to the future.

Seven years into the great App Store experiment, 850 apps are downloaded every second--and more than 100 billion since the store launched. The average user has 119 apps. What will these numbers look like in another seven years?

That's the question that Apple wants its developers to think about. That and to "think about how much money is waiting to be made."

Any predictions for what the App Store will look like in 2022, seven years from now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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