With the recent announcements around the next iterations of Android and iOS, it is time to take a step back and look at what the new crop of operating systems is bringing forward in order to learn where mobile is going next. However, when looking at the announcements made by Apple and Google, the picture that appears is one of a world where the two leading operating systems are focused on parity with their competitor, with slightly different approach to solving the same problems.
Let’s take a look back at Google I/O and Apple’s developer conference and see what your next mobile device will do.
The biggest news to come out of Google I/O, the company’s developer conference, may be about something that wasn’t there. Faced with increasing fragmentation as its partners do no seem to upgrade the Android operating system as quickly as Google would like, the company essentially announced that it would not release an operating system this year. The predictable chain of new operating system versions was broken, as Android 4.2 (the latest version, also known as Jelly Bean) is not to be replaced any time soon with Android 4.3. This, in itself, is a pretty significant event as it represents a substantial shift in how the company is treating the core architecture (the bones, if you will) of its operating system, as something that should now remain relatively static, with new features and improvements being tacked on in a different way.
Not upgrading the operating system, however, does not mean that Google is not throwing in a lot of new features that help it close the gap with Apple. From a consumer standpoint, Google introduced:
All those features are nice features that will result in a better Android experience and interestingly enough, all of them can be pushed to existing Android users, reducing the chances for fragmentation a completely new operating system could create.
But if you look at it, there is little here that is truly innovative. Each of the improvements either matches or iterates on something that was already there, giving the impression that Google no longer shoots for leaps and bounds when it comes to their mobile offering.
But before one start making fun at Google’s stewardship of Android, let us take a look at Apple’s announcement around iOS 7. For Apple, things are pretty nice: the company has been seen fairly consistently as a thought leader in the mobile space since the introduction of the first iPhone. So its Worldwide Developer Conference is the kind of event early adopters, developers, and even Apple competitors look forward to in order to get an understanding of where Apple’s thought leadership will take the industry. In the past such events reignited or brought forth such concepts as touch interfaces, apps, and app stores.
So when Apple set out to introduce its iOS 7, people paid attention. And while most of the focus was on the new look and feel of the operating system (something many attribute to Microsoft’s own visual treatment), Apple introduced a number of other features for consumers:
Once again, all those features are fantastic for iOS users and will make the overall experience better. But are any of them revolutionary? No, not really. Just as Google may seem to have run out of new ideas and is bringing features from iOS into Android, Apple seems to have run out of new concepts and is bringing features from Android into iOS.
With each of the players having presented their offering for the next year, it seems that 2013 will be a year when little innovation will come from the core of the operating systems. Yes, there will be changes and improvements but the leading companies appear to have decided which battle they will fight in 2013:
But in all this, the big thing that appears to be missing is a true differentiator at the core level. This may mean we are reaching new levels of maturity in mobile operating systems, requiring less of the original scaffolding to be setup but it may also mean that future updates will continue to remain relatively boring, with incremental progress replacing the kind of giant leaps we’ve come to expect from year to year.
© Tristan Louis 1994-present Some rights reserved.