Hundreds of millions around the world were waiting with bated breath on Tuesday for the launch the latest iPhone, the new Apple Watch and the debut of the Apple Pay electronic wallet. Will the new products create another big consumer hit and will Apple stock rally?
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In Israel, the multitudes of Apple customers and investors were joined with equal anticipation by a community of app developers, who are no less interested in whether the company’s latest offerings will create another digital revolution like the iPod, iPad and first generation of iPhones.
Could one or more of them be on their way to creating the next Waze – the Israeli social navigation app that Apple acquired last year for close to $1 billion – or Viber – the instant-messaging app for smartphones s acquired by Japan’s Rakuten last February for $900 million?
A day after the product launches, most people in the Israeli apps industry were optimistic, though there was a distinct, bearish minority that expressed doubts about the ability of the new products to penetrate the market and create huge new opportunities for developers.
“I think Apple’s digital wallet is very significant for Israeli developers,” said Amir Kirshenbaum, CEO of WorldMate which develops business traveler apps. “The service will change the world. The combination of agreements Apple has signed with retailers and the iPhone’s biometric capabilities will render wallets useless. The world of payments will look a lot different in a few years,” he said, noting that the company had brought three major credit card companies, six leading banks and many top U.S. retailers to the endeavor.
Kirshenbaum was similar optimistic about Apple Watch which, unlike smartphones, is with the user nearly 24 hours a day. “Developers can exploit this to develop different applications from those they created originally for phones,” he said.
Daniel Cohen, general partner in Carmel Ventures venture capital fund, was less sanguine about Apple’s newest smart phone. “The iPhone 6 isn’t really such big news. There are probably a lot of people who will want to buy the new phone with its bigger screen, but the new iPhone doesn’t have a lot of sensors not seen in earlier versions or competing phones,” he said.
Cohen said there would be some opportunities to develop apps for the bigger screen, but doubted there would be a wave of wholly new apps for the device. He expressed more interest in Apple Pay t and the Apple Watch.
“I don’t believe that Apple Pay will spark a revolution like other Apple products and services did. Nevertheless, it could be of interest to many developers,” Cohen said.
Eyal Reshef, CEO of the Israel Mobile and Media Association, is excited about the opportunities Apple Pay presents.
“It’s a new applications ecosystem that has opened up for developers. It’s been six, seven years that various groups have tried to develop the electronic wallet segment,” he said, citing efforts by cellphone companies and PayPal. “Apple’s entry into the area is a major move forward. It ‘ll bring a lot of other companies into the segment who will invest a lot in creating the user experience.”
That means new opportunities for app developers, such as creating coupons tied to the user’s current location, for example. “We need time to digest all the innovation that it’s going to bring,” Reshef said.
But Omer Shoor, who developed the photo-editing app Photogene, is less excited. “I don’t know if the digital wallet will be open to expanded apps and outside developers. As I understand it, it’s very convenient and practical for users, but I don’t think that’s good news for developers or niche products.”
In Cohen’s view, Apple Watch offers the most opportunities for developers. He compared it to the 2010 launch of Apple’s first tablet, in which the company entered the segment late but quickly came to dominate it and turn tablets into a consumer hit.
“I’m confident that creative developers can develop apps that no one has yet thought of. For instance, in gaming, now you can develop games that make use of the player’s pulse. For instant messaging apps, there are opportunities to move apps from smart phones to the Apple Watch and offer the user a new experience,” Cohen said.
He pointed to Jerusalem-based Glide, which has developed video messaging.
Shoor , for his part, said it was hard to predict how much of a success Apple Watch would be. There will opportuntites for health and fitness applications as well as those that integrate existing applications like Twitter or WhatsApp.