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Apple Sweats The Small Stuff

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Do Apple employees ever take a day off?

That’s the question I always seem to be asking after the company’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference. The 2011 version of “Christmas for Tech Geeks” was held in California last week and like WWDCs past, Apple unveiled a plethora of new technologies and innovation.

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By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Do Apple employees ever take a day off?

That’s the question I always seem to be asking after the company’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference. The 2011 version of “Christmas for Tech Geeks” was held in California last week and like WWDCs past, Apple unveiled a plethora of new technologies and innovation.

The focus this year was on software, with the announcements of new versions of iOS and the latest Mac OS, Lion. And of course, the announcement of iCloud, which Apple had teased prior to the conference. With so many goodies on offer, the tech world reacted like a kid with so many presents. they didn’t know which to open first. Much of the focus in the press this past week was on the iCloud service (cynics might argue that this was due to Apple shepherding the conversation in that direction) and what it means for the future of native and web based apps. While I think iCloud is going to be a huge part of Apple’s future, there was another game changer that most of the tech pundits overlooked.

What is this hidden innovation gem? As part of HYPERLINK “http://www.apple.com/ios/ios5/features.html” the changes that come with iOS 5 users can open the Camera app with one touch of the lock screen. Seems simple enough right? But as experts in user experience design we can tell you that small changes like this can have a huge impact on functionality. And as experts on e-commerce, we can tell you that removing friction from a transaction has a dramatic increase on conversion rates. And that is exactly what Apple has done here.

Consider the new use case scenario for an iOS 5 user. They want to take a picture of something. They pull out their phone, tap the screen, push the volume button and they’re done. And if they have Apple’s new Photo Stream enabled in iCloud, the photo is automatically downloaded to all their (Apple) devices. Two clicks and the user has captured data, backed it up and distributed it to multiple platforms. How elegant is that?

Right away, it positions the new iOS as a Flickr killer. Why bother taking the time to import photos in to Flickr when your phone automatically does it for you? If I were a point and shoot camera maker I would also be worried. iPhone photos are already the most popular file format on numerous photo-sharing services. Making this functionality even more available can only increase those numbers and make low end digital cameras even more redundant. The Flip may have been one of the first casualties of Apple’s improved camera and video functionality but it probably won’t be the last. Finally, this ease of use paves the way for even more applications that take advantage of image recognition for their core functionality. The potential for e-commerce alone is huge. If a busy mom can access her camera phone in less than ten seconds she’s more likely to use those images for shopping comparison tools and social shopping. Easy access may even improve the adoption of QR codes and Augmented Reality apps among consumers.

As I mentioned before, there’s lots of goodies in Apple’s bag. And as we process the full range of announcements from the WWDC, there may be stuff that seems much more important than this simple change. But don’t be surprised if this minor design alteration has a big impact on app development in the coming year. It’s a classic Apple move and a great example of how they think about every aspect of the user experience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to making my way through the rest of the new features… oooh, wireless syncing!

What about you? What do you think was the most interesting announcement to come out of the House of Jobs in the last week?

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