Apple as a network

Imagine a world where the Internet was freely available, wherever you were with no monthly fees, no mobile carriers or horrible public wifi to deal with. A world where your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device truly just works. I believe that in 5 to 10 years time we won’t need to worry about who provides our ‘pipe’ to the internet. We’ll simply buy an Apple device and it’ll be ready to go out the box. No data limits, no fair usage policies, no roaming charges, just the capabilities of the device, available anywhere and everywhere. Whenever and wherever you need it.

That, will become the offering.

Apple will likely rely on the massively distributed networks already available (MVNO Style) and probably with the first real robust consumer implementation of Hotspot 2.0 and ANDSF (Access Network Discovery Select Functionality) which will enable seamless and intelligent handoff between WiFi and other larger cell networks. Apple has thus far kept support for Hotspot 2.0 very limited indeed, the only way of configuring it currently is by installing a .mobileconfig profile on your device, a process which is clunky at best, and downright confusing for users at worst. Apple likely won’t fix this, until they have complete control of the end-to-end process, which means controlling a network.

Apple is really buttoning down on security with iOS 9, something called the Application Transport Protocol ensures developers are communicating over SSL encrypted connections from within their Apps. Although this can be disabled temporarily by the developers right now, it certainly shows Apple’s desire to provide a secure experience for their users. I think we can all probably see Apple enforcing HTTPS on developers very soon. The widespread introduction of a HotSpot 2.0 powered network would allow something which is absolutely key, and that is to provide a secure encrypted network for developers to build upon. That point, I think, is key… Let’s reflect on Apple’s major successes throughout the years.

Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch.

Only one of those products (the early iPods) did not provide a platform for developers to build experiences and products on top of. All the others provide a well thought out, highly scalable, and very reliable platform on which to build services and products. Apple has fantastic SDK’s right now for iOS and OS X Apps and has recently expanded these offerings to include WatchOS which will allow hundreds of thousands of developers to build Apps which live on your wrist. I suspect it won’t be long before we have an AppleTV SDK too, all these Apps have a distinct set of requirements but most of them share the same limitations.

The vast majority of Apps have two limitations; Storage space on the device, and subsequently the speed, security, and reliability of the network connection to the device. Sometimes, in order to solve the problem of storage space, developers reach to the cloud to store large files. This is something Apple is actually encouraging developers to implement in iOS 9 with ‘on demand resources’. So really, everything points to the network as the next great tech challenge to solve.

Today, we can only see glimpses of Apple desperately trying to improve various aspects of the situation. The Apple SIM for example, takes the pain out of selecting a network when you take your shiny new device out the box, but is limited to certain networks who have opted in. Imagine if there was no network, imagine if you didn’t have to worry about whether you were on WiFi or using mobile (cellular) data, or what country you’re in, or how much roaming allowance you have left…

That, is what Apple needs to provide. There’s a long way to go, and I’m sure my theory has its flaws but one thing is for sure, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

Author: Sam

iOS Developer & blogger