The Frictionless Future

I think I've just seen the future and I like it. Let me begin by saying that I'm a total Apple fan boy and I acknowledge that it is obnoxious to talk about a bunch of expensive electronics that I own. That said, I'm beginning to understand the frictionless world in which Apple wants to encase all its customers. 

Let me explain. I recently got an Apple Watch for Christmas. I thought it was ok. I don't need anyone counting my steps and it mostly seemed like a nice to have with little critical functionality.  It has the time AND the weather. Groundbreaking!

But I was only half right. Recently after a software update the Watch offered to pair with my MacBook. Now when I start my MacBook, the Watch automatically opens it without a password. Soon after I clicked on a link to my son's lacrosse game and the iPhone opened Apple Maps instead of my usual Google Maps or Waze. I accepted it and then at every turn my Watch began tapping my wrist and offering an arrow telling me quickly which direction to turn on the display without having to speak.

I also bought an iPhone X and the Face ID seemed like a neat little feature but sort of gimmicky. Then it started to ask if I wanted to use it to authenticate on all the apps on my phone. Now I open my investment account app, banking app, etc. without a password and without the texted number associated with traditional two factor authentication. My face is now the password and the second factor. That made remembering all these highly secure passwords for apps I might use often but not everyday obsolete.

What I began to realize is that Apple is attempting to construct a frictionless world in which its users navigate with a seamless set of Apple hardware and services. You're Watch, your phone, your computer, your tv, your car, your... all remove barriers and annoyances as each one acts as a gateway to the rest of the world. Movies, directions, music, tv programs, etc. will all be served up seamlessly at the moment of need/request like we all have some sort of magical butler. Apple becomes the gateway and removes many of the frictions we all experience everyday. Can you imagine if your Watch or phone could just autofill all those forms at the doctor's office?

Now of course there are a lot of caveats and issues to consider. The world I describe isn't fully here yet. I've just seen glimpses. It'll take time. There are also the issues of privacy and control. Will we all slip into a Wall-E future with a corporate overlord dictating what we do and see? There's also competition. I don't think Apple will necessarily win this battle. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. are working to create this or alternate worlds as well and there are some big gaps and flubs that I've seen from Apple as well.

From my perspective though, Apple has a big advantage over its competitors with its ability to control hardware, software, and many services as a single system. It has more of a chance to create a compelling suite of hardware and services.

From a government perspective, there are obviously regulatory concerns but I also think government innovators and leaders need to focus on this same seamless system or suite when thinking about serving citizens. People's expectations will be shaped by Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. and they will demand similar services. Why does someone have to go to three departments separately to get approval for something? Why do I have to use some terrible green screen government database? Why do things seem opaque and antiquated? The private sector will force the public sector to up its game. Maybe I'm wrong but I think I've had a glimpse of that future and it's time for us all to pay attention.