Apple catches up to rivals with iOS 5

Nick Dillon/Ovum
OvumIn the latest update to its mobile operating system, Apple has added a raft of features to bring it back on par with its competition. New features such as messaging, cloud storage, and integration with Twitter provide plenty of causes for concern for platform vendors, mobile operators, and cloud service providers alike.
 
Apple plays catch up
 
Since the last update to the iOS platform a year ago, the other smartphone platforms have make considerable advances, placing significant pressure on Apple to innovate on its own platform at the risk of being left behind in terms of functionality. Apple has certainly taken this on board and has delivered a considerable update to the platform with iOS 5.
 
While the majority of new features borrow heavily from the innovations of Apple’s competitors, the popularity of the iOS platform, which has now been shipped on 200 million devices, and the company’s ability to deliver an excellent user experience, means that these features will undoubtedly prove popular.
 
It’s interesting to note that on this occasion Apple has not announced new iPhone hardware alongside the software update, though the new features revealed in iOS 5 give a strong indication as to the capabilities of the next hardware refresh.
 
With the launch of iMessage, Apple has given both RIM and the mobile operators something to keep them up at night. iMessage bears more than a passing resemblance to the successful BlackBerry Messenger service, but without requiring the service fees which are split between RIM and the mobile operator.
 
In addition to these fees, operators also stand to lose revenues from SMS as iOS users switch away from the operator-managed service to the IP-based iMessage for their communications. Apple is clearly hoping to not only entice users away from BlackBerry with iMessage, but also hopes to recreate the “stickiness” of the service which instills such loyalty in BlackBerry users by limiting it to iOS devices. Apple should not underestimate the scale of the task here – the very fact that such a service is so “sticky” means that it will need to attract a critical mass of users before iMessage really takes off.

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