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?