Cyberbullying continues to drag Twitter down

The cyberbullying problem at Twitter is so bad that critics are starting to suggest it could bring the company down.

On Thursday, a rumor about a Twitter shutdown in early 2017 spread faster than wildfire in Southern California. Users chimed in en masse, making #SaveTwitter a trending hashtag that spawned memes, jokes and ridicule. By midday, Twitter had to awkwardly deny reports of its death.

The company faces many challenges, including sagging user growth and continued financial loss. However, the hate speech, bullying and mob mentality that run rampant on the platform are problems Twitter has battled for roughly a decade. "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years," wrote former CEO Dick Costolo in an internal memo obtained by 18 months ago. "It's no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day."

As the #SaveTwitter drama unfolded, published a scathing reportdetailing Twitter's 10-year failure to address harassment on the site. The report, which is based on interviews with high-level former employees, reads: "The social network's long history with abuse has been fraught with inaction and organizational disarray. Fenced in by an abiding commitment to free speech above all else and a unique product that makes moderation difficult and trolling almost effortless, Twitter has, over a chaotic first decade marked by shifting business priorities and institutional confusion, allowed abuse and harassment to continue to grow as a chronic problem and perpetual secondary internal priority." 

Abuse isn't just a "bug" in Twitter's service, according to the report, it's a fundamental feature.

Twitter denied the former employees' allegations but declined to address specifics or share plans to combat the abuse. "We feel there are inaccuracies in the details and unfair portrayals but rather than go back and forth with BuzzFeed, we are going to continue our work on making Twitter a safer place," the company said in a statement. "There is a lot of work to do but please know we are committed, focused, and will have updates to share soon."

Those "updates" can't come soon enough for Twitter and its 313 million monthly active users, who are increasingly frustrated by the company's excuses and inaction. The latest reports of Twitter's death may be greatly exaggerated, but the recent rumor is rooted in an undeniable truth: cyberbullying and abuse on Twitter is getting worse, and it could eventually kill the company.

Twitter could quickly limit the bullying with new filters and required user-identity verification, but such measures would cut into the company's already abysmal bottom line. By failing to act, however, Twitter makes a conscious decision to allow harassment on its network. Even if systemic bullying doesn't bring the company all the way down, it will certainly drag Twitter further into the gutter.


Instagram takes aim at Snapchat with disappearing 'Stories'

If Snapchat is still just a little too confusing for you, Instagram might have a solution. The Facebook-owned company today revealed a new feature that resembles one of Snapchat's most popular attributes: "disappearing" photos and video. 

"Instagram Stories" could help you find a happy medium between over-sharing and under-sharing. As the feature rolls out globally via Android and iOS during the coming weeks, Instagram's 500 million monthly active users will gain access to a daily feed of photos and video that resets after 24 hours. The photos and video added to the Instagram Stories feed will "disappear" after 24 hours and won't appear in the main Instagram feed or in the grids on users' profiles, according to the company. 

Instagram Stories will appear in a bar along the top of the app, that highlights people with recent Stories. When you add multiple photos or videos to those Stories within 24 hours, Instagram will automatically fuse them together as a slideshow.

Facebook has tried to copy Snapchat many times, with failed apps such as Poke andSlingshot. And it has regularly updated Instagram with new features and functionality. However, Instagram Stories marks the most radical change to the app in nearly three years.

"Instagram is aiming here not to displace Snapchat necessarily but to shift some usage from Snapchat to Instagram among people who use both apps," says Jan Dawson, chief analyst and founder of tech research firm Jackdaw. "It's about not giving people excuses to switch to a competing app for features that have been exclusive to those in the past." 

Casual sharing has never been Instagram's forte, but Snapchat has also evolved significantly from its early days as a purely "ephemeral" messaging app, according to Dawson. While permanent sharing and temporary sharing have been largely kept to dedicated and separate apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat, there's nothing that precludes these companies and others from adding features popularized by competitors. 

The copying and borrowing between Instagram and Snapchat has been particularly active this summer. Snapchat made a move on Instagram's turf less than a month ago, when it released "Memories" and gave users a tool to preserve and curate the content they share for future viewing. Today, just 27 days later, Instagram followed up with asnap of its own. "Users benefit from this copying, because it helps them avoid having to use a million different apps for different use cases," Dawson says. "The key is to keep developing new, unique features while also borrowing the best of what's worked in other apps, and to maintain an appropriate balance between these two." 

Instagram has traditionally gravitated to a glossy aesthetic with high-quality photography and video. The company's Cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom has repeatedly called out this aesthetic as a defining characteristic that differentiates it from other photo, video and messaging apps. "If you want to take a simple photo that you don't really want to remember and post it to have your friends not see it after, there are great networks for that," Systrom told The Hollywood Reporter just last month.

Instagram Stories "will be a big deal for certain classes of users, and especially those in the sort of target age groups that tend to engage in the most ephemeral sharing, and who are the biggest users of Snapchat," Dawson says. However, it could also clutter the interface, and the company will have to tread carefully so it doesn't detract from the overall experience, he says.


Should Apple worry about Microsoft-IBM deal?

When Microsoft inked a deal with IBM last week to develop new business applications for Surface tablets, it felt like a case of deja vu. Details of the partnership closely resemble those agreed to almost exactly two years earlier by Apple and IBM. The difference, experts say, is how Apple and Microsoft are tackling the ‘next phase in enterprise productivity.’

IBM and Microsoft have been closely aligned on many business deals for decades, making it somewhat surprising that it took so long to bring this particular partnership to fruition. Apple’s deal with IBM, by comparison, was considered a watershed moment because it heralded a new era of cooperation between the longtime competitors.

“Apple scored a big win with their agreement with IBM but also came a bit as a surprise,” says Raul Castanon-Martinez, senior analyst at 451 Research. “IBM followed up with a similar agreement with Microsoft because partnering with Apple meant leaving out a significant chunk of the market.” Nowadays it’s common for companies to have a mix of Apple and Microsoft devices that IT must support, he says.

“The delay does seem a bit strange but I do not think this means Apple has gained a significant advantage in the enterprise,” Castanon-Martinez says. Microsoft’s enterprise play goes beyond positioning Surface tablets for work; it is also putting pieces together for the next phase in enterprise productivity, according to Castanon-Martinez. Microsoft is aggressively pushing its productivity tools, cloud infrastructure, Surface tablets, Cortana and artificial intelligence to enhance its presence in the enterprise, he says.

Apple’s efforts in the enterprise aren’t as expansive as Microsoft’s, but they also don’t begin and end with IBM, says Van Baker, research vice president at Gartner. The iPhone maker is broadening its enterprise reach beyond IBM with its SAP and Ciscopartnerships as well, he says.

“The Microsoft deal is hardware centric as I see it and is focused on Surface tablets running Windows 10 so basically they are PC apps,” Baker says. Apple’s deal with IBM includes hardware but the greater focus is on mobile software and support, so the impact of Microsoft’s partnership with IBM will be minimal to Apple’s momentum in the enterprise, according to Baker.

“I still see Apple dominating the smartphone and tablet use in the enterprise but this will enhance Microsoft's position in the PC segment,” Baker says. “The Surface is used primarily as a notebook while the iPad is used primarily as a tablet. There is some overlap and they will compete in some segments but this will not fundamentally change the mobile landscape in the enterprise.”

Apple’s role in the enterprise has been and, for the foreseeable future, will be anchored to workers and consumers, not big businesses, says Aaron Gette, CIO of Bay Club, a lifestyle and fitness company. “Microsoft might not be first to market, but they come prepared and well versed,” he says. “Microsoft's Azure is beginning to win in the enterprise cloud marketplace, so the role of IBM's ability to deliver apps to the Surface users in the enterprise is a great play.”

Gette says he doesn’t think Microsoft’s deal with IBM will negatively impact Apple, but the Cupertino giant should be worried about who it is as a company. “With iPad and IPhone sales slipping in a more saturated mobile market, how will they address the needs of the consumer of the future?”

Castanon-Martinez also sees cause for concern at Apple, but it has little to do with Microsoft. “Apple should be worried, but not because of what Microsoft is doing, but rather because of what Apple is not doing,” he says. Apple crawled into the enterprise and gained momentum as a tool for work through the popularity of iOS devices, says Castanon-Martinez. “But when it comes to a well-orchestrated strategy that looks at the enterprise from different angles, Microsoft is ahead of the game.”


Taking a closer look at bots from Apple, Facebook and Google

"Bots" have been around for decades. Recently, however, it's become the norm for large technology companies to build, support and develop bots for a wide variety of uses. Because bots can be so many different things, it's often difficult to parse the bona fides from the wannabes — or even determine what bots do. 

"A bot is an autonomous machine interface that's built to serve a purpose that traditionally was served by a human," says Michael Facemire, a principal analyst with Forrester Research.

Bots can stimulate human conversation, but their greatest strength lies in the capability to simplify business processes that don't require human intervention, according to Adam Fingerman, chief experience officer at Arctouch, a mobile app design and development company. "From a utility point of view, bots will have an even bigger impact on how we work than how we live," he says.

Bots can also help navigate complicated data systems, according to Fingerman. Bots "can be the friendly interface that points users to the right content, answers time-sensitive questions, and ushers them to the right human to get the feedback they need," he says.

Bots are nimble, and they don't need to be anchored to a single platform, interface or purpose, according to Raj Koneru, founder and CEO of Kore, a message-based bots platform for enterprise. "A bot can live in many places," he says. "The beauty of a bot, unlike a mobile app, is that it's conversational in nature so it can be in many, many places."

Apple and Facebook have embraced bots in meaningful but disparate ways. These companies' histories and their legacy platforms help explain their different approaches to bots today, according to Facemire. "The differentiation is driven by more traditional business models that these folks have as opposed to looking at the entire space and saying, 'We'll differentiate by providing a different technology choice' or anything like that," he says.

Apple recently elevated its bots, calling them "apps" that will run within the Siri voice assistant, iMessage and Maps in iOS 10. Facebook lets developers build bots that operate within its Messenger service. Apple provides a "closed system that locks you into the Apple way of doing things," whereas Facebook "wants to be as open as possible" to give developers a greater say in how bots function, according to Facemire.

Google has been mum about its plans for bots in Allo, its forthcoming messaging app, but the company's history suggest it will lean toward a more open approach, he says. "Google just wants the traffic," Facemire says. "Google monetizes information that they can glean from knowing who was talking about what, and taking that information and selling it to advertisers, which is their true business model."

"[Facebook and Google] want to get their existing customers to utilize their platforms by providing tools that can easily be embraced, ultimately directing more traffic to their pages," says Claus Jepsen, chief architect at enterprise software vendor Unit4. "Apple, on the other hand, wants their customers to integrate to other capabilities within the software itself, and relies heavily on Siri's closed platform."

A paradigm shift is currently happening in the ways people use technology today and how they'll use it in the future, according to Jepsen. "Data collection is becoming pervasive, automatic and non-intrusive, instead of spotty, manual, and requiring high levels of interaction," he says. The separation between work and personal life will erode as bots empower people to interact and communicate with software in much the same ways that they talk to friends, Jepsen says. This shift "will allow for more unified exchanges between a consumer's work and day-to-day requests."

"For IT leadership, bots are an opportunity to reduce trivial help desk to-dos and allow their teams to focus on the important initiatives that will make a real difference to their business," according to Fingerman. 

Apple, Facebook and Google may currently lead pack when it comes to consumer bots, but Fingerman thinks things will play out differently in enterprise. "We often talk about how it is important for businesses to look to consumer technology as a model for building a great user experience for their workforce," he says. "But the use cases are dramatically different, so we don't see a future with a lot of bot crossover."


Why Snapchat's Memories broadens snap appeal

Snapchat plans to move away from its most defining characteristic and make other changes that should broaden its appeal but still satisfy existing users. In the future, the disappearing or ephemeral nature of "snaps" may not be the difference maker for Snapchat.

Fleeting content and messages will continue to be the default setting, but Snapchat users will soon be able to store and archive their snaps within the app for future viewing and sharing. The new Snapchat Memories is an evolutionary change for a service that has always focused on living in the moment.

Snapchat CEO and cofounder Evan Spiegel has consistently described Snapchat as a product that's so unique it's hard to understand until you use it. "Over the last 10 years all of our conversations have been stored," Spiegel said at last year's Cannes Lions advertising festival, according to British advertising-news site Campaign. "The idea behind Snapchat was to try and restore the immediacy of the conversation." 

Memories doesn't appear to jive with the company's past vision for raw and unfiltered snaps, but the new feature probably won't alienate many current Snapchat users, according to Adam Kleinberg, CEO of advertising agency Traction. Snapchat hasn't hesitated to make major changes to its platform in the past, to follow user behavior, and Memories continues that tradition, he says. "This is just a natural evolution of [Snapchat] continuing to give people what they want and see themselves evolving from the linear utility to a broader media and communications platform."

Snapchat has transitioned from a one-to-one messaging platform to a one-to-many visual communication service that empowers people to control their online personas and manage more curated personal brands, according to Kleinberg. "You see a lot of influencers who used to manage their personal brands on Twitter now using Snapchat to do that."

Ephemerality has been a differentiator for Snapchat, but the company isn't the exclusive purveyor of rapidly fleeting social content, Kleinberg says. "When people put a post on Twitter, it may not technically disappear, but it's just as invisible. Once something goes below my fold on Twitter, which takes an hour, not 24 hours, that tweet becomes invisible anyway. Sure, it's searchable, but who the hell cares about that? Not users."

Snapchat will also make it easier to share images and video stored on phones. The lack of such a feature has "hindered sharing in a lot of instances," Kleinberg says. Last week, for example, when Kleinberg wanted to share something from Traction's 15-year-anniversary party, he had to choose between using Snapchat or his camera app. "Do I want to do this on Snapchat? Or do I want to take it with my camera and have the photo so I can do whatever I want with it?" he says. "Now I don't have to make that choice."

Snapchat Memories may also help attract older users who are accustomed to curating their social identities, but Kleinberg doesn't think that's a motivating factor for the change. "I don't think it's about making the app easier for old people to use," he says. "I think they intentionally don't make it easy for old people to use. The [user interface] is non-intuitive by design, because it makes the platform parent-proof."

Parents may actually use Snapchat more today than ever before, but their kids don't necessarily approve. Nearly a third (30 percent) of Snapchat users between the ages of 13 and 24 said their favorite thing about the service is that their parents don't use it,according to a recent survey commissioned by entertainment publication Variety and conducted by Defy Media.


Apple purposefully avoids enterprise at WWDC

Apple says it takes the enterprise more seriously today than ever before, and it has backed that claim with the release of a number of new business solutions during the past years. However, Apple's enterprise efforts were barely noticeable at the company's annual developer conference last week. 

Apple did not completely ignore the enterprise at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), but it also didn't make any significant business-focused announcements. The company mentioned enterprise only once, in passing, during its two-hour opening keynote, but some of the APIs in the upcoming iOS 10 software, discussed in technical sessions later during the conference, will enable new capabilities for many user types, including IT professionals. For example, the iOS 10 software development kit lets businesses build apps that integrate with iMessageSiri and Maps. And enhancements to iCloud, Touch ID and a new common file system that syncs across iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS, called Apple File System, should also enable developers to build better business apps.

Apple's partnership with Cisco, announced last August, will bear some new fruit in iOS 10. Cisco's Spark collaboration app will tap into Apple's new mobile OS to integrate with native iOS calling features, so calls placed via the app will look and feel like calls made using Apple's native phone app. Cisco customers will be able to make and receive calls on iOS devices over corporate networks, and IT managers can give Cisco apps network priority over other non-critical apps to ensure the best possible user experience.

Apple also made notable progress in the enterprise market since it inked an alliance with IBM almost two years, and it followed up with deals with Cisco and SAP. The company has been busy, but it could do more to highlight its strengths to businesses, according to Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. "I believe Apple could have mentioned enterprise more than it did [during WWDC] if it wanted to reiterate its enterprise aspirations," he says.

Travis Fischer, director of engineering at ChaiOne, an enterprise design firm and member of Apple's mobility partners program, attended WWDC, and he says he wasn't surprised when enterprise was mostly overlooked during the keynote. The WWDC keynote is "less about sharing new and exciting things for the developers and more about sharing news with the rest of the consumer world about the next versions of Apple's various [platforms]," Fischer says. "This is the first shot of Apple's sales pitch for new phones in the fall."

Apple's keynote is the most public-facing WWDC event, but it's also the least significant for attendees, according to Fischer. "Developers come to WWDC to learn about the guts of the flashy things mentioned at the keynote and how they can use the new tools and libraries in their apps."

The company didn't address business developers specifically, but it introduced several improvements that could be useful to them, Fischer says, including the new iOS APIs. "You don't have to call someone by name for them to know you're talking directly to them."

Apple geared the majority of technical demonstrations at WWDC toward consumers, but changes to its underlying technology will impact enterprise developers, according to Moorhead. The company's decision to open up its most popular native iOS apps to external developers also has strong implications for the enterprise, he says. "Route drivers could have simplified maps and directions to reach their destination … Siri could be used by food handlers to invoke the right recipes or instruction manuals without touching the phone … [and] iMessage could be linked to a bot to answer questions and ask the right questions," Moorhead says.

So while the company didn't make many big business announcements at WWDC, it didn't have to, according to Fischer. Apple is already bringing its well-known "consumer experience to the enterprise worker," he says. "Apple doesn't need to court the enterprise with splashy announcements or new tools."


Microsoft's big bet on LinkedIn not just about data

Microsoft this week reached deep into its coffers and made a massive bet on social media in the enterprise. The company says LinkedIn, which it purchased for $26.2 billion, will be a semi-autonomous entity under its ownership, but LinkedIn data will eventually be integrated with Microsoft's collaboration and productivity tools.

"As Microsoft integrates profiles, preferences and other data more fully, business users will have a more consistent and personalized experience across the suite of Microsoft tools," says Melissa Parrish, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "A LinkedIn-powered experience could start to look a lot more like a traditional B2C customer experience: smart and personalized." 

LinkedIn will complement Microsoft's Skype for Business, Yammer and other enterprise-focused services, as well, according to Jack Gold, president and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. The pairing is a "natural fit," and it will help Microsoft sell and expand Office 365 services, he says. "Microsoft buying LinkedIn also is defensive in that it keeps it out of the hands of Google, and allows Microsoft to more effectively compete with Google for the enterprise market where there is far more revenue to be had than in consumer web."

Microsoft has multiple motivations for making its largest acquisition since the company was founded 41 years ago, but first and foremost it stands to benefit from the data LinkedIn has on its 433 million users, many of whom are businesspeople. "With deep access to the LinkedIn social graph, Microsoft will be able to power new capabilities for accelerating work and collaboration across an employee's personal connections inside and outside the firm," Parrish says. "More context and better access to content and expertise means fewer emails and meetings and faster results. This will help Microsoft keep Google Apps for Work at bay and fend off challenges from the still-beta Facebook at Work." 

Microsoft's Office Graph — essentially a map of every Office user, the data they share on social media, and how it all relates — in particular should benefit from LinkedIn's "treasure trove of information," according to David Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product strategy at, a Microsoft partner that integrates multiple collaboration tools into a single dashboard. However, Microsoft will have to overcome integration challenges and user concerns about the company owning even more personal information it if hopes to effectively utilize the data, he says. 

"With LinkedIn integration, not only will Office Graph know who is sharing information with whom and about what, but there will also be a layer of information about the individual supplied by LinkedIn that will enrich the recommendations that Office Graph can provide," Lavenda says. Questions about Microsoft's ability to successfully integrate LinkedIn into its infrastructure also exist, particularly in light of its spotty track record and inability to bring Yammer further into the fold, according to Lavenda. Yammer "seems to be slowly dying on the Microsoft vine," he says, and that might not bode well for LinkedIn integration.

Shyam Oza, a senior product manager with AvePoint, a firm that helps enterprises manage Office 365 and Sharepoint deployments, says the greatest opportunity for Microsoft relates to the integration of Microsoft data with LinkedIn's social platform. "While there is a large pool of data available through the LinkedIn acquisition, I think it's the platform that they are most interested in — not the raw information," Oza says. "We underestimate how much telemetry data Microsoft already has from Windows, Office and Skype. They don't need to spend money on data."

The amount of professional data that LinkedIn has on its users is unparalleled, but the majority of that information is static, according to Manish Sood, CEO of data management company Reltio. LinkedIn has more than 433 million users, but only 24 percent use the site at least once a month, according to a Microsoft press release. "LinkedIn relies on the power of self-curated updates," and as such, the "data does decay due to neglect," Sood says.

"Depending on the need of the individual user and their own level of fastidiousness, updates to profiles may only occur if they are trying to find a new job or have achieved new status, or want to feature new perspectives," Sood says. "This is in stark contrast against true corporate profile data which is continuously renovated and maintained through a steady stream of internal and third party sources." 

The $26.2 billion question: How will all these components fuse together and make their ways into Microsoft products?

"On the face of it this seems a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a company that wasn't exactly in a boom period and which still had a lingering air about it of addressing a market space that was both obvious and not so obvious to anyone tracking it," saysChris Marsh, principal analyst at 451 Research. 

However, LinkedIn represents significant value for Microsoft, particularly in mobile design, social DNA, human resources, marketing and the potential for cross-pollinating Microsoft's collaboration apps with LinkedIn data, according to Marsh. In a report on the acquisition, 451 Research wrote, "By integrating LinkedIn, Microsoft will bring potential features, functionality and benefits to its software that take advantage of the shared infrastructure and connectivity that are unique to cloud offerings, and enable Microsoft's products to benefit from LinkedIn's network effects, which will make it challenging for competitors to match."


What Apple's new open stance means for iOS apps

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple plans to give developers new access to some of its most popular apps and features, an unprecedented deviation for the company that will markedly change the user experience of the platform. This week at the company's 27th annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple opened access to the "crown jewels" of iOSthrough a series of new APIs for Siri, iMessage and Maps, according to Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy

It is notable any time Apple relinquishes even a little control of its operating system, and with the release of iOS 10, which is expected in the fall, Apple will shift away from its isolationist tendencies and put the future of its most widely used native iOS apps in the hands of third-party developers. The strategic shift is also in line with similar efforts underway at Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

"This signifies something of a shift at Apple from favoring its own first-party apps and services to trying to create the best possible experience in functions like Siri, Maps or iMessage," says Jan Dawson, chief analyst and founder of tech research firm Jackdaw. "Just as Apple had to make a strategic shift from the first iPhone to creating the App Store, it's now opening up the rest of the iPhone to third-parties, and that should prompt a flourishing of new forms of value creation around the iPhone."

The iPhone ecosystem will likely become stronger as a result of these changes according to Dawson. Apple has already moved toward openness in a number of ways recently, but the company will take a "big step further" down that path when it eases many controls that were previously untouchable for third-parties, Dawson says. Apple hopes the change will also attract more developers to its platform, though iOS is already very popular among developers.

"[Apple's] developer community has never been more vibrant. We now have 13 million developers" who contributed two million apps to the App Store, said CEO Tim Cook during the WWDC keynote address. Those apps were downloaded 130 million times, and Apple paid almost $50 billion directly to developers during the last eight years, according to Cook. 

Apple wants many more developers (and would-be developers) to join the iOS ecosystem, so it's aiming to make its development tools easier to use. The company is trying to make coding less intimidating with the release of a new, free iPad app called "Swift Playgrounds" that teaches beginners how to code. The app includes real iOS APIs, step-by-step lessons and detailed coding sessions. Swift, the open-source programming language Apple released in 2014, has already been used to develop more than 100,000 apps, according to Apple, and the company hopes Swift Playgrounds will "profoundly impact the way kids learn to code," Cook said.

Apple's more open approach to developers marks a notable shift in the company's platform strategy, according to Dawson. "Apple has just reached a tipping point in its thinking about owning the experience around key functions versus making them as good as they possibly can be by opening things up," he says. "It's a sign that Apple feels secure enough about its core value proposition that it's willing to open up these functions to third parties after such a long time."

The changes coming to Siri, Apple's voice-activated virtual assistant, might be the most important of all. "Siri services over two billion requests a week from customers," said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, during the keynote. Siri communicated with users hundreds of billions of times since it was released five years ago, and usage rates should rise as the feature becomes more useful thanks to a much-needed assist from developers.

"Opening up Siri will make an enormous effect on the experience," Moorhead says. "It's apparent Apple has been working on this for a long time and, in many ways, appears ahead of where Google is with their developers on an intelligent agent. I believe if Apple lets people under the AI covers we will see elements of AI leadership."


4 ways Apple could fix Apple Music

Apple Music, the company's streaming music service, is a confusing mess that aims to please everyone but wows no one. The app is bloated, yet it still lacks some of the most basic features of subscription music services. When Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion in May 2014, it got a well-designed, fun interface in Beats Music, but it threw it all away in favor of a cluttered, whitespace-heavy format that harkens back to iTunes, which was introduced 15 years ago.

The design and spirit of Beats Music could have been a foundation for Apple to build upon, but it took a different route. The company is expected to announce some big changes to Apple Music at the 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco next week. And fortunately for Apple's 13 million paying Apple Music customers today, it's not too late to make the service great again. I've used Apple Music nearly every daily since it launched last year. Here are four things I'd fix, improve or scrap entirely in Apple Music.

My biggest complaint about Apple Music relates to its abysmal sharing mechanisms. What good is music if you can't share it with friends? The average person might not sit intently around a record player or boombox to enjoy an album in its entirety like people did for half a century before digital music, but that doesn't mean tunes can't be shared and enjoyed together in other ways.

I have friends and family who also use Apple Music, but I don't know what they listen to or recommend because Apple doesn't provide this information. When I used Beats Music, and Rdio for many years before that, I always enjoyed other people's recommendations. There's something about being introduced to new songs and artists by another human being that no algorithm can match. Apple Music needs to make it possible for customers to follow other users and discover songs that are popular with people they trust on a musical level.

Apple Music is poorly organized and uninspired. Its "For You" section, which serves as an entry point, is OK at suggesting artists and playlists you might like based on listening history, artists you follow, and songs you previously liked. However, For You doesn't refresh as often as I'd like, and its almost-infinite scrolling format can be maddening if you're trying to find something new or different. My For You section contains many of the same albums, artists and playlists that it has for months. It's boring and feels like the bare minimum.

Apple Music's other sections aren't any better. For example, if you want to find and listen to playlists curated by Apple or one of its partners, you have to tap on a "New" tab and scroll down nearly three lengths of the screen. These playlists are one of Apple Music's best features, and they are buried in terrible design.

Apple Music needs a makeover, with a new organizational scheme that elevates the best of the service and removes the unnecessary clutter.

Apple introduced the social component of Apple Music, called Connect, with much fanfare. But it never lived up to the hype. Connect is a glaring reminder of how terrible Apple is, and has always been, at incorporating even the simplest social features into its apps and services. (Remember Ping, the music-oriented social network Apple introduced in 2010?)

Social simply is not in Apple's DNA. Giving artists a place to share videos, audio and other exclusive information with fans is a great idea, but Apple's implementation is poorly executed. Connect is a waste of space in the already-cramped Apple Music, and Apple should just kill the feature completely.

Apple Music is the latest in a long line of native iOS apps that don't demonstrate Apple's strengths in user experience and design. Apple's legacy is on the line if it can't deliver the simple, intuitive design its customers expect. If the company wants to reclaim its crown as king of digital music, it needs to lead the way with fresh ideas and cutting-edge mobile design.

Apple Music is packed with nearly every song that's available in digital format, but its interface gets in the way. Why is it so difficult to find songs you download to your iPhone, see songs you "heart," add to "My Music" or listened to recently?

Let's hope Apple addresses these issues when it takes over the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for WWDC next week.


Apple's enterprise partnerships, big and small, start to pay off

Apple has been the target of recent criticism for its current pace of innovation. However, though the company's slow-and-steady approach to the enterprise may not be winning over financial analysts, it is proving to be an effective strategy for expansion into the business market. Apple set the stage for a formal courtship of the enterprise nearly two years ago, when it inked an alliance with IBM. Since then, the company has struck deals with Cisco and SAP to tap the strengths of these stalwarts in enterprise services and mobility, in additional to a number of smaller players.

IBM and Apple built a foundation for enterprise growth through more than 100 jointly developed mobile business apps, according to Mahmoud Naghshineh, IBM's general manager in charge of its Apple partnership. Mobile devices are changing the ways professionals work, and the next opportunity is to capitalize on the modern mobile transformation, Naghshineh says. "That is a bigger thought that is a far more sustainable, far-reaching value."

In 2016, Apple and IBM aim to scale what they've already built. All of the apps created under their MobileFirst for iOS initiative have been tested and deployed across large workforces, he says, and now it's time for developers to build and expand on the software. "We've got the largest number of iOS Swift developers that you can ever find in the enterprise."

Apple's push into the enterprise continues to gain momentum thanks to other collaborations with smaller companies, including Box, for content management, and DocuSign, for electronic signature and contract exchange. These deals don't get the same level of attention as the high-profile partnerships with IBM, Cisco and SAP, but they make Apple's products and services more viable for business use.

DocuSign CMO Brad Brooks says his company worked with Apple for a few years on various projects, including the development of many of its enterprise-specific features. And DocuSign collaborates with Apple on its major enterprise programs, such as the Mobility Partners Program and MobileFirst for iOS initiative, which Brooks calls "evolutions of each other." Apple is also a DocuSign customer, according to Brooks.

Box also has a number of agreements with Apple as well, including (by extension) its designation as the preferred content management company for IBM. The Box platform can be accessed and customized for enterprise via its API. "We want to become the underlying content collaboration fabric that can power a bunch of applications," says Jeetu Patel, senior vice president of platform at Box.

Similar to DocuSign, Box makes its most popular features available to iOS enterprise developers without a direct customer relationship, according to Patel. "Mobile is fundamentally helping change a company's core business model and their customer acquisition models," he says. "It's actually become a cost of doing business, and it's a baseline expectation that's now starting to get created because of mobile."

This factor will dramatically change CIOs' jobs, but it will also empower them to help businesses overcome the structural shifts taking place today in nearly every industry, according to Patel. "The world is actually flattened from a competition standpoint where you're not just competing with your competitors, you're now competing with the best-in-class in the digital world, regardless of the business that you might be in," he says. "That's a pretty interesting problem to solve for CIOs."

Some of Apple's progress in the enterprise is a direct result of smaller alliances with companies including Box and DocuSign. Both organizations say these partnerships helped them understand the unique challenges IT professionals face when managing and securing Apple devices, and they regularly share best practices with their CIO customers.

DocuSign's Brooks says today's CIO faces a "giant wall of worry" that's building up around the demands of employees, and some IT professionals think Apple's move into enterprise compounds the issue. "The question is can you channel it off and mitigate the impacts of it, or are you going to take it head-on?" he says. 

Fear is simply no longer an acceptable or appropriate response to Apple devices in the enterprise, according to Brooks. "This is the constant challenge that is becoming greater and greater for CIOs," he says. "You've got this tension around data security, integrity and the way that you used to be able to combat that as a CIO is create a bigger firewall, build a bigger moat. The reality is that just doesn't work anymore."

Enterprises need to carefully plan and embrace the conversion to mobile at the most senior level, according to Brooks.

"It’s really important to pick the right problem to solve in mobile," Patel says. "Make sure that your product or solution that you're providing is not just 20 percent better than what's available in the market, but 10 times better."

Patel estimates that only 30 percent of businesses are prepared for the type of mobile transformation Apple has started to create with its enterprise partners. "Everyone's going to be digital," he says. "The nuance in whether or not you'll succeed is in the mechanics of how you go about doing it."