The Ecosystem Company

Yesterday was a big day in the Apple world. Changes to Apple Watch, a new Apple TV, the iPad Pro and a set of new iPhones were all announced in a two hour keynote in San Francisco.

While long, I agree with John Gruber that it felt like a much tighter presentation than WWDC. That aside, there’s no getting around it: Apple has a lot going on, and it shows in these events.

While just a decade ago, Apple was making desktops, notebooks and music players, today the company has a product in just about every major consumer tech category.

Apple wants to own the smallest screen in your life with Apple Watch, and the biggest in your house, with Apple TV. Apple in your living room, Apple on your desk, Apple in your hands, Apple in your pocket, Apple on your wrist. Behind it all, iCloud and the App Store delivering content and apps on-demand.

It’s a lofty vision, and one that Apple has been lurching toward in fits and bursts, but if yesterday has one overall theme it’s this: Apple makes products, but it what it’s really making is an ecosystem.

This isn’t as easy as seems, even for Apple, as Ben Thompson wrote just this morning:

Ultimately, for Apple, as diligently as the company may have worked on the iPad Pro and Apple TV, the truly difficult part begins now: the company remains far ahead of nearly anyone else in the world at creating great products, in part by zealously controlling everything from core technology to the supply chain to the retail experience. Platforms, though, while established through product leadership, flourish and sustain themselves by empowering and entrusting developers to build something so compelling that customers fall in love with not just the hardware but the experience that runs on top of it. In short, they require sharing the customer relationship, and while that may go against Apple’s instincts, to not do so is increasingly against Apple’s interests.

Can the iPad Pro fix the iPad line’s woes? Will new bands help jumpstart Apple Watch sales leading into the holidays?

I don’t know, but those questions are secondary to this: can Apple build an ecosystem that is here to stay?

I think it can, but I agree with Thompson: building something sustainable means doing things differently than Cupertino has done in the past, but I think we’re seeing things shift already. Apple’s more communicative with customers and developers, and while there’s a long way to go, I’m optimistic after seeing Apple on stage yesterday. In the meantime, bring on the new screens.