Editorial

The mobile market is turning grey

When Apple introduced the original iPhone, they did break the mold. While looking back the device is now laughable with features that it lacked, the platform has now matured into a mainstream product. When Apple rolled out iOS 5, the Internet went crazy because Apple copied features from both Android and Windows Phone and failed to innovate.

Why did the Internet go crazy? Apple has built itself to be a groundbreaking company, injecting new ideas, new hardware, new software into the marketplace. So when they didn’t do this, the Internet attacked Apple for parting from its traditional course.

Microsoft has had its own run-ins in the mobile landscape. They let their previous mobile platform go stale and become overrun by Android and iOS. Knowing this, they went back to the drawing board to bring about a new OS, one for this century, one that could compete with iOS and Android. When comparing version 1 of iOS to Windows Phone, Windows Phone dominates that platform but that’s because it had to if it wanted to be taken serious.

Microsoft has made great strides in trying to innovate on the UI and features for the platform; rightfully so as they need to grab the attention of the consumer. Windows Phone, especially with the addition of ‘Mango’, will level the playing field once again for Microsoft.  But Microsoft can be credited for unique features that are being copied by other platforms such as quick access to the camera from the lock screen and live tiles.

Moving to Android, the perpetual upgrades to the platform have been a blessing and a curse. The platform has evolved at an incredible pace but keeping all Android devices up-to-date has been another struggle. But Android has brought many new features to the table, most notably widgets and their acceptance on the mobile platform. Android made widgets useable, fun and informative while not crushing the OS under the weight of the widget. Android did innovate too in its notifications, which were copied by Apple, and Google also nailed the implementation.

There are other platforms out there such as BBOS and Symbian, but those are quickly fading from relevancy primarily because Nokia is now supporting Windows Phone and BBOS needs a ground-up refresh to maintain its relevance. WebOS is still out there, but its wide adoption has yet to prevail.  But likewise, these platforms have made their impact over the years, albeit in smaller proportions when compared to Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

When you look at the mobile ecosystem today, the definition between the platforms is shrinking with each new generation. What was once a killer feature on a single platform is quickly replicated by the competitors in their next revision to the software. This is the way the industry works, it seems as if some have forgotten this little fact.

Many years ago, Microsoft and Apple copied features from each other’s OS to help keep their platform relevant. In the car industry, this same phenomenon occurs too, the innovator gets a 1 generation advantage until the competitors implement their own version. This is how the open markets work and will continue to work into the future.

When thinking about the future of mobile platforms, the industry is flattening. Competitive advantage is now defined by external factors from the OS and now resides in the hardware. We have hit the saturation point of one platform being better than the other. Windows Phone, Android and iOS all offer the same features, and thanks to continuous improvement, do it in a very similar way. When one innovates, the others will copy in their next revision. This is the way the markets work and will continue to work until all platforms are only defined by the company supporting them and not the features implemented.

This all breaks down the this, when one company innovates, it is expected that others will follow suit. When a company announces a feature already implemented by another, it is not necessary to riot. This is the way the markets operate, and will continue to do so until the mobile ecosystem turns grey, that is of course, until the next revolution in technology comes along.

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