Mid-Week Apple Event, Earnings & Conference News

Apple; Oracle; PayPal; Celsius; Coinbase

1. Apple 2024 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC)

Apple took to the stage to share all of the operating system (OS) and software innovation it has been working on for the last few quarters. While there were no monumentally groundbreaking announcements, there were some highlights to cover. We’ll explore all of them here.

Apple Vision Pro:

Apple unveiled the 2nd generation of its Vision Pro “spatial computing” OS. It comes with added hand movement features for easier device control and easy content sharing to reminisce with loved ones across the globe. It also features a spatial photo tool that is compatible with iPhone and Canon's newest cameras. Speaking of iPhone compatibility, you can now shoot spatial video right from your phone to more immersively relive those moments in the future. Society continues to march closer to Black Mirror being more realistic than it seemed a few years ago. Fascinating, fun and spooky. 

Vision Pro offers wireless Macbook compatibility to easily expand your most familiar workspace. Apple is not really innovating at a rapid clip, but it doesn’t really need to when its ecosystem is this dominant and sticky. More hardware interoperability like this will merely support that special formula. As I frequently say, it’s Apple’s blue text bubble world and we’re willfully living in it (myself included).

The company made a batch of new application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow talented developers to build custom apps on top of this software. That should broaden Vision Pro’s overall utility over time if consumer momentum can improve. Developers just want to build for wherever the traffic is. Volumetric APIs allow for multiple 3D apps to be run side-by-side; its Tabletop API makes it easy to build app visuals that appear fixed to flat, physical surfaces. You can imagine how that would be compelling for architects building a blueprint of friends playing Catan. Enterprise APIs are its industry-specific tools to build things such as zero-stakes surgical training exercises. 

While there have been reports about somewhat underwhelming headset sales (just like for Meta in the past), it’s full speed ahead here for Apple as it gears up to launch in 8 more countries this year. And I think that makes a lot of sense… 

Apple dominates the smart-phone industry in North America and, to a lesser extent, across the globe. There is a good chance that this mobile computing wave shifts from screens to something that looks like a pair of Ray Bans in the future. Apple needs to make sure it is insulated from that competitive threat, even if it never actually manifests. The grave mistake would be ignoring this evolution as a potential outcome, and not investing to make sure it will be part of it. It certainly has the money to spend and then some. Accepting some losses here seems like a correct business decision.

Two things are true about Apple in my view. First, its moat is world-class and its ecosystem is a fortress. Second, the innovation engine does seem to have slowed just a bit. Nothing alarming… just some gradual apparent slowing. The deepest moats have a way of training companies to grow complacent when it comes to innovating. Apple has already won the market, so why change anything? 

We can see how that philosophy plays out within areas like utilities, where customer service is frustrating and experiences are often poor. Where else are you going to go for electricity and water?

I think the “why change anything” idea can apply to Apple in this case. The poor customer outcomes idea does not. Apple’s customer satisfaction ratings are nearly 100% across all products. They still make great hardware. But? To drive the next 20+ years of profitable compounding, that great hardware will need constant improvement and some occasional overhauling. So? This focus on Vision Pro should be taken as a great sign to investors that Apple isn’t satisfied by simply resting on its laurels. There will be some other ubiquitous device after the iPhone. Apple wants to be the centerpiece of that transition.

iOS 18, Watch OS & iPad OS:

Changes here included an app icon dark mode, home screen customization, scheduled texts, bolded/underlined font, and more emojis for text tapbacks. These were all subtle. The most interesting debuts were as follows. Apple now has a “lock an app” or “hide an app” function to augment iPhone privacy. Not everyone wants the world to know they use Tinder or Hinge. Now, you can pass a phone to your friend knowing they won’t access or even see the app without you wanting them to.

I think the coolest feature announced at the event was satellite messaging for iMessage. With no cell service, users can easily tap into this form of connectivity to send a message on the go. My mind turns to all of the hiking trips I’ve done and how comforting it would’ve been to know I could phone a family member in even the most remote locations. This also works for SMS. Apple Pay added a few minor tweaks to payment sharing. These tweaks included sending cash to a nearby iPhone by hovering yours near it and making Apple Pay rewards more intuitive. More on this in the PayPal section of this article. 

For Watch OS, Apple created a new vitals app for denser health metric tracking. It also introduced pregnancy cycle tracking and turn-by-turn directions for hikes across national parks. 

For iPad OS 18, Apple introduced the long awaited calculator app that has been on the iPhone for over a decade. It did go a bit deeper within math applications. The magic pencil + the new math app can solve expressions and tweak answers as those expressions are altered. This isn’t just for basic arithmetic, but more complex problems such as measuring a ping pong ball’s trajectory based on speed and loft of contact.

The new notes app now automatically improves the appearance of handwriting. Need to frantically take notes as you listen to an earnings conference (or just let me do it for you)? Apple will make sure they’re legible. Simply cross out that text to have it erased.

Mac OS:

The focus for Mac OS was on driving even better product interoperability to nurture the fortress ecosystem. It introduced iPhone mirroring to see what’s on an iPhone screen from your laptop. It teased use cases like getting a notification to complete a Duolingo lesson and finishing it right from your laptop. You can also easily export content from one device to another with a simple drag and drop. It now offers Keychain Password Management to help organize and store logins (tough day to be One Password).

  • It’s making a bigger push into web and mac gaming, with creators such as Ubisoft bringing their popular titles to this ecosystem.

  • All Mac OS APIs for developers are in beta testing as of this week. Broad rollouts will take place later this year.

AI:

AI was a large focus area for this year’s event. Apple, in their own quirky and often ingenious way, is calling Artificial Intelligence “Apple Intelligence” and/or “Personal Intelligence.” Cheesy… but they can get away with Cheesy.

Apple doesn’t build the most powerful and accurate models and doesn’t seem to be interested in participating in the arms race to get there. The firm is going about this in a different way than Meta, Amazon or Microsoft/OpenAI. Apple is taking advantage of the unmatched customer data profile it has on all of us… across all of our apps and interactions… to craft more localized models specific to our own identities. Models become valuable when they’re trained on larger sums of highly relevant data. It doesn’t get much more relevant than these granularly-trained models… hence the term personal intelligence. Some basic use cases include:

  • Asking your phone when to leave to pick up your Mom at the airport. Your phone (with your consent) scrapes the flight number she shared with you, tracks the route, analyzes traffic patterns and tells you when to leave.

  • Wishing a friend a happy birthday with a generated, animated photo of them blowing out the candles.

  • Automated editing and perfecting of messages and emails with recommended alternatives for wording and sentence structure. 

  • Generate whatever emoji your imagination can think of in the image playground.

While Apple rolled out the original chat bot (Siri), its chatbot today is far behind others on the market. A lot of its work on localized models and Apple Silicon (high performance compute chips) is addressing this gap. It’s also partnering with OpenAI’s ChatGPT to augment and deepen Siri’s use cases. This should be a massive shot in the arm for what that conversational app can do – including a boatload of actionable task completion options. Task completion is augmented by a “semantic index” function that can organize and connect data dots across a user’s apps.

  • Its new “Intents API” can help developers build data sharing “orchestration” (or simply work flows) to create new use cases with this tool.

  • “Apple Intelligence” will become broadly available this summer.

For better security, the GenAI models within its new operating systems will process queries on devices. This is facilitated by Apple's newest chips (like the A17 Pro). To Apple, on-device processing means the models will be “aware of your personal data, without collecting it,” storing it and using it like many others do. The models only access the needed context to deliver a specific answer. Data is not stored by Apple.

As the team explained, some queries require more computation power than can be jammed into a small iPhone today. To tap into more flexible capacity, without sacrificing data security, Apple created a Private Cloud. This hosts queries, fields them and resolves them without the same impermissible data storage and usage routinely done by others. The code is open for inspection from 3rd party experts to ensure Apple is keeping its word here.

2. Oracle (ORCL) – Earnings Review

a. Demand

  • Missed revenue estimates by 1.9% & missed guidance by 1.8%.

  • Remaining performance obligation (RPO) growth is the direct result of its successful traction within multi-year cloud service contracts. As Oracle adds more capacity to meet hefty demand, RPO will lead to faster revenue growth (per their guidance) for next year.

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