Is Apple Ready to Embrace Cross-Platform?

Who would’ve thought?

One of the most salient announcements in Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote (besides the lack of an Apple TV update) was that of Apple Music being launched on Android.

Admittedly, it will take longer for the new subscription service to get there (Android users will have to wait until the fall, but iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and even PC users had Apple Music available to them on June 30th). What’s more, Android users won’t enjoy access to the same free tier as users on Apple devices, which means they must be paid subscribers to listen to music.

Yet the fact that Apple is now in the business of making Android apps is quite significant on its own. For one thing, it signals that Apple hopes to lure Android users into its own ecosystem — all while giving Google, which has long offered all its major apps on iOS, a taste of its own medicine. More importantly, it highlights an intention to make Apple Music a universal destination—one where fans go to listen to and connect with their favorite artists, regardless of which platform they’re using.

image showing devices from multiple platforms

A dream come true?

This change in strategy is unavoidable. Experts recognized from the very beginning that systems should work together and not off unto themselves, which would free the flow of information.

The problem? The technology wasn’t there.

More recently, however, there has been an explosion of cloud services that can take cross platform functionality to the next level. Microsoft, of all people, seized the opportunity, making its software available everywhere. Whether Apple (or Google, for that matter) like it or not, the burgeoning of the cloud makes it increasingly easy for users to work across different platforms. And although both companies would prefer users to stick to its own ecosystem (Apple in particular has excelled in getting all its systems to seamlessly talk to each other), the reality is that not everyone can be locked into one ecosystem (or indeed, wants to).

There are professionals who have no say in the platform they get to use at work. Some people may love their iPads—but actually prefer a Windows-based laptop (don’t ask me why). Others may switch from one platform to the other, basing their decision, for example, on hardware features. GTD’ers, in particular, can only benefit from using a system they can access on any platform. For all these users, being able to transition easily and without losing data would be a godsend.

Swift changes

The announcement that Apple Music will be available on Android isn’t the only indication of Apple embracing cross platform functionalities. As reports Wired magazine, the biggest round of applause at WWDC 2015 came after Craig Federighi announced that Apple will open source the next version of its programming language Swift. That’s because developers have come to prefer open source tools and platforms. More to the point, it signals that Apple is willing to make it easier for developers to use Swift to write software for others platforms, not just iOS and OS X.

Good times for us all

Cross platform is here to stay, and that’s good. People will no longer be confined to one device. Work colleagues will be able to work perfectly as one team, whether they own a combination of iOS, Android, and Windows devices—maybe even a BlackBerry. As for the individual consumer, he or she will no longer dread switching to a different platform or fear losing data.