I’m writing the first draft of this post on Wednesday, September 18, a few hours before Apple releases its most important product this fall. The product will cost absolutely nothing, and some might not even know about it until they see a friend with it, but within months, every iPhone, iPad and iPod touch user will have their worlds rocked, for better or worse, by it.
That product is iOS 7, a complete overhaul of Apple’s mobile operating system.
Only geeks like myself have been following Apple’s development of its next-gen mobile OS. Most don’t know about it, and probably don’t care, until they update and realize that their iPhone has become an entirely new iPhone. Then they’ll feel as though they got a new phone for free.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the main competitors in the mobile space have now modeled themselves after Apple. Apple came out in 2007 with complete ownership of the software + hardware stack, the beginning of what now is the most powerful mobile app ecosystem on earth. They were ridiculed for it, for spurning the partner model, for thinking they could just walk in and distrupt the complex mobile phone market.
Well, they did just walk in, and now everyone has copied them. Google bought Motorola, and Microsoft has purchased Nokia. Now, everyone is modeled after Apple. Software plus hardware. Platform vs. platform. Ecosystem vs. ecosystem.
We’ve come to a point in the mobile battle where each phone and tablet – the hardware – is really nothing more than a delivery vehicle for the mobile operating system. When you buy your new shiny glass rectangle, sure, you buy a phone, replete with its own specs and features and benefits, but really you buy a platform, an ecosystem. You buy the software and everything it’s tied to.
And that’s why iOS 7 is such a big deal for Apple.
Everything that makes the iPhone so usable as a mobile platform has been thrown into a state of calculated flux with iOS 7. The new OS will look different, sound different, and even act a bit different. It introduces over 1,500 APIs for developers to play with. It offers upgraded apps, closer tie-ins to popular web services (new this year are Vimeo and Flickr in addition to old stalwarts like Facebook and Twitter) and easier access to settings. It offers camera and video interface tweaks. It obviates the need for some apps, like flashlight apps (iOS 7 smartly has a flashlight function built in).
But, naturally, there is a learning curve for everyone. The familiar iPhone has been replaced with a vastly updated, albeit less familiar iPhone. Will users tackle the learning curve, or become frustrated? My money’s on the former, because if a user decides to jump ship, say, to Android, the learning curve is even steeper there. So that’s a moot argument.
Regardless, iOS 7 is a whole new world, and if you haven’t at least glanced at what it offers, you really should.
The platform is what makes Apple so strong. Consistent design and user interface mechanics, a friendly SDK and market-leading developer revenue make it nice for us users: we get a stable, strong OS tied to first-tier apps. If you look at the modern smartphone market as the computer industry of yore, Apple is IBM.
And nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.
So a few hours from now, iOS 7 will be released to new users as a free download. And with that release, the next step in Apple’s evolution will take place, good or bad.
The blood running through the veins of every Apple mobile device is iOS. That’s why this update is so critical for Apple. If they sicken the blood, they sicken the platform, and vice versa.
Me? I realize Apple’s been laying the groundwork for the next generation of apps and functionality, and iOS 7 is the foundation. From here, they’re just getting started – if iOS 7 is adopted and accepted well.
We’ll know more in a few hours.
Have a good weekend, everyone.