Never mind iPhone 6 and iPads next, in 2013 it's iOS 7 and iCloud that matter most

There'll be an iPhone 5s and iPhone 6. There'll be a Retina iPad mini. There'll be a thinner, lighter iPad 5. There'll be an Apple A7 system-on-a-chip. There'll be an LTE radio that can do simultaneous voice and data, and eventually voice over LTE. There may be curved displays, biometric sensors and security, 4K AirPlay, onboard voice parsing, in-air gesture and face recognition, and much, much more. Apple's hardware will continue to tick tock its way towards the future, but for mainstream users, most of the time, the devices we hold in our hands today are more than good enough. And it's the stuff inside and around them that's become far, far more important.

iOS 6 was prep work, a way for Apple to get Google off their platform, fully outsource social, and better approach China. It prepared Apple for the future, but it didn't take them there. Likewise, iOS 5 introduced iCloud and Siri, but to this day Apple's online services are still unreliable, with the potential of tomorrow but mired in the problems of yesterday.

When BlackBerry 10 launches at the end of this month, iOS will become the oldest major operation system in mobile. Windows Phone still hasn't found feature parity or market traction, but Microsoft can throw Windows and Office money at it in perpetuity, and their phone division is perhaps the only part of the company that has shown any real, transformative forward thinking. They'll get there. Android still hasn't caught up on interface or overall experience, but their feature set has leap-frogged ahead, and Samsung is now interesting and competitive all on their own. Then there's Amazon, Facebook, Intel, NVIDIA, and who knows what else 2013 will bring.

All of them will throw more and more varied hardware, more often, at the market than Apple. But it's not Samsung's or LG's or HTC's or Nokia's or BlackBerry's hardware that Apple will face in the market. It's Google Now and BlackBerry Balance and whatever Facebook does with their social graph, and SDKs that let developers create compelling apps to leverage them.

It's not about outdated concepts like widgets or settings toggles, or inconsequential interface trends like skeuomorphism. it's about software and services that don't force us to hunt for data or controls, no matter how they're painted up, but that bring data and controls to us, flat or textured. It's about actionable notifications powered by headless apps and seamless inter-app communication. It's about predictive data assistance with multi-layer natural language interfaces. It's about data moving from cloud to device, or vice versa, transparently, in the background, so we have what we need, when and where we need it, without having to manage or store it. It's about all our stuff working together directly, device to device, so using one of them is akin to using any one of them. It's about an app ecosystem that pushes rather than than waits for us to pull, with demos and refunds, and analytics that delight developers and users alike. It's about the brilliant interaction of software and services both on-device and in the clouds.

Over the coming weeks and months, we're going to be seeing a ton of rumors and leaks, real and fake, about the new iPhones and iPads and other devices Apple is thinking about for this spring and fall. None of them will be as important to Apple, to us, or to the future of Apple's mobile platforms as iOS 7 and iCloud this summer.