33 minutes

How fast must Apple push the pace of mobile innovation to keep the legion of competitors from catching up?

The mobile space has never been more relentless. It's like Galactica -- no matter how successful your last jump was, you have only 33 minutes to spin up again before the Cylons arrive and try to wipe you out.

And like Galactica, Apple now faces a new, evolved generation of competitors, some of which have taken their form, some of which are every bit as relentless as Cylons (and coincidentally share the same machine motif.)

While it seems like just yesterday that Steve Jobs held up the original iPhone on the Macworld 2007 stage and showed off full screen, multitouch iOS (then iPhone OS) for the first time, since then Android has officially launched, PalmOS was replaced with webOS, Windows Mobile was replaced with Windows Phone, and BlackBerry has just begun a transition to a new QNX base.

When that's done, at roughly 5 years of age, iOS will be the oldest of the major mobile platforms on the market.

Now Apple has money, they have mindshare, and on a phone-to-phone, manufacturer-to-manufacturer basis they may even have a lot of the marketshare. But just like Apple's competitors can't bring specs to an experience fight, Apple can't mistake device battles for a platform war.

The App Store remains the mother of all nukes in the mobile platform space, but for how long?Today's refinement and maturity can lead to tomorrow's stagnation and bloat. What has grown to appear all but unassailable in the market one generation can be quickly eclipsed by a big innovation in the next. (Just look what iOS did to everything that came before.)

Unlike Palm who let PalmOS wither and Microsoft who condemned Windows Mobile to obsolescence, Apple has a history and reputation for competing not only against the industry at large but against their own past efforts as well.

On the eve iOS 5, we have more incremental feature improvements coming our way, along with the far more ambitious move to iCloud. It's keeping up a relentless pace of innovation meant to keep a legion of competitors from catching up. But will that be enough maintain Apple's lead into 2012, given that competitors like Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, BlackBerry's QNX, Microsoft's Windows Phone, and potentially even Amazon's next Kindle are increasingly less than 33 minutes away?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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33 minutes


Is 33 Minutes a Battlestar Galactica reference, because I'm not so sure I buy that. Microsoft worked for a whole year on "Windows Phone 7" and opened to a less than lukewarm reception. RIM's PlayBook, which didn't have the "Play", unless you had a BlackBerry, not to mention last month's biggest loser of them all, the HP TouchPad, where the "loser" part applied mostly to HP's (mis) handling of its ultrashort shelf life. RIM sort of packed up and capitulated, too, when it announced that it wouldn't even bother to put it on Sprint's network here in the U.S., as it had originally planned to do. And then there's Samsung, which hasn't even gotten any shelf life at all to speak of over in Europe thanks to Apple's legal department.
Now, I'm not an "Apple fanboy" per se, although you probably wouldn't believe that if you saw my "Command Center" to keep with the Sci-Fi theme. I actually liked RIM's Playbook but if I can't send an email from the darn thing without also owning a BlackBerry, I was less disappointed than I was completely bewildered as to why RIM would make such an obvious, fundamental and deal-breaking mistake. With iPhones being ubiquitous, how could RIM have honestly thought that they weren't going to be laughed off the tablet scene? That ill-conceived move not only killed it for me before I was done reading the rest of the spec sheet, but it made me weary of RIM's overall decision-making process and as a result, it will likely make me approach their next offering with even more reluctance. And as far as HP is concerned, ... well, never mind, they just threw in the towel before Round 1 could even get going and while they were at it, they decided that they weren't going to try to compete with Apple's notebooks anymore, because it's not like they're the No. 1 manufacturer of computers. Oh wait! But they are! So again with the hasty decisions.
It feels like like every would-be competitor suddenly adopted the strategy of the L.A. Clippers when a new season begins: "Well, there's always next year."

When is the the eve of iOS 5. I'm ready for something new. But still fascinated by the iPhone 4 and iOS 4.3

"iOS will be the oldest of the major mobile platforms on the market."
Humm, I kinda disagree with that. Windows Mobile has been around for 11 years, and it's still used in millions of devices around the world. Microsoft started from scratch with Windows Phone 7, but one can argue that Apple did much the the same between iPhone OS and iOS, which transformed from water to wine between versions 1.0 and 2.0.
To put the usual hubris in pespective, it's useful to remember that the original iPhone also had a lukewarm reception. It took more than one quarter for Apple to sell 1M, and a full year to sell 6M. That's very similar to WP7 numbers BTW.

I think you need to read the article again.....
"MAJOR" is a key word in the line you quoted from the article which is why Windows Mobile isn't the focus... WP7 is...

I'm sorry but...what exactly is the iPhone leading to where competitors need to play catch up?
Good reference though to BSG [never watched it but I get the 33 minutes]. I just see it as the opposite affect, Android is in the lead right now and iOS is catching up [especially w/ features and cloud].
< Besides profit share, what is the iPhone leading?

High quality apps, seamless, non-fragmented user experience, interface refinement, and total ecosystem size (media players, tablets, phones, set top together). According to a report earlier this year, iOS still leads in market share when all devices across all OS lines are accounted for. Android is still struggling in three of these four device categories. Despite what Droid fanboys would have everyone believe, smartphones alone do not the mobile world make.
And, as someone who has been legitimately beta testing iOS 5, I can assure you that iCloud isn't just Apple playing catch-up to Android. it surpasses its out of the box cloud backup and sync features. I've already heard a few platform agnostic podcasters bemoan the Android Market's lack of native app data backup since the beta's release. It is a killer feature, especially for less technically savvy users.
Lastly, to say that Google TV has fallen flat would be the understatement of the century. It already seems destined to go the way of Wave (dead), Photovine (dead), Aardvark (dead), Google Desktop (dead), and Picasa (dying a slow horrible death, at least as a useful desktop tool). Google never made good on its promises of the Android Market, among other things, and manufacturers like Logitech and Sony have been slashing prices to unload stock. Even with Motorola in their back pocket, they stand little chance of getting into the good graces of cable and satellite providers, who don't want to share their little monopolies with a anyone.
On the other hand, while I was critical that Apple didn't do enough with the Apple TV refresh last year, they have sold rings around Google TV this year. Recent reports have estimated 400-500 thousand sold per quarter since release. Logitech has had more returns than that! Well, at least before their 75% off firesale. Now, with Screen Mirroring over AirPlay, Apple TV sales stand to increase, possibly dramatically. I've been testing the iOS 5 beta with mine, and it is an absolute pleasure to use. All of my games play with little to no lag at all, and Real Racing 2 HD has already been updated to allow for full 1080p streaming for a full screen gaming experience. EA is also jumping on board with their upcoming FIFA 12, which reports say will feature full screen AirPlay streaming, and the ability to use iPhones and iPod Touches as bluetooth control pads. $99 is a small price to pay to get a poor man's game console, and I think this new feature will have Nintendo execs wringing their hands.
Looking at it now, this is a MUCH better idea than having another platform for apps. Now, devs can focus on the experience for iPhone and/or iPad and get the ability to stream to the big screen with little to no additional effort. With in-app purchases, they even have a way to monetize this as a premium feature, since they have the ability to block AirPlay in the SDK. You may not think this is a "lead" now, but it will very quickly become one if Google keeps sitting on their hands with Google TV.

Interesting. :-D I had no clue my Android devices had a fragmented user experience. I thought fragmentation was about devices and something developers had to worry about. Learned something today. :-D #notreally lol
But...did you not see the article stated iPhone was leading and I asked specifically where iPhone was leading? Higher quality apps is a developer kudos not iPhone. Credit Apple for the platform for sure but we devs make the apps/games.
Yes, saving data to the cloud for each app is awesome. That's a great feature for sure but not enough to say it belittles the Google "cloud" [which includes documents, contacts, the best webmail, etc]. They are both great options. One has things the other doesn't and vice versa.
I'm not sure how you pulled Google TV into this but wow. Provide proof Logitech has had more than 400-500k returns [or just more than they've sold]. In other words, back up such outrageous claims. The Android Market is coming to Google TV. They already opened it up for devs to start working with it [http://code.google.com/tv/android/]. How long did it take for Apple TV to hit 1 million sold and add the iOS App Store?
This is petty stuff we're discussing. Consider all of my questions rhetorical because I don't care to engage in a lengthy back and forth on this level. Have a good one.

Sorry.. But its apple playing catchup in phones now. IOS 5 is giving features to the iphone that we have already seen in android and other devices..had apple not released an ipad they would be even farther behind. Apple will need another savyor device sooner or later, and a single apple tv device is not going to be good enough..

How do you play catchup to half baked poorly written software?? If you meant the ideas behind those features... Sure. If you meant their development being fully realized and polished and working as well as an iOS feature... NOPE. And I don't know what you mean by farther behind as iPhones continue to grow in share and volume every quarter. As a diehard windows user myself, unless Microsoft finds a way to port windows to a phone "as is" with little difference between the desktop version it's quite clear iOS is the best mobile phone software by far for the foreseeable future

iOS is not the best. I'm sorry. I own an iPad 2, iPod touch and an android phone. Task that are so so simple on the Android take way more clicks than it should on iOS. Right now iOS has an advantage in speed and "ease of use". Functionality and features? Android blows it away.

Do you honestly feel that the last 25 years of tech has been led by apple? Get real. Please go check some windows/mac market share stats and come back and post again.