Apple's iOS Commands A Lotta Bits Of Loyalty

Software developers may chafe at the iron-fisted rule Apple exerts over the apps it purveys in its App Store but they love the fact that Apple maintains strong control over the hardware and software that run its devices because it’s far easier to produce and test an app for the iOS than it is for Android devices. That dichotomy is one compelling reason why Apple still commands the loyalty of developers even though Android hardware outsells Apple by 59% to 23% in the smartphone market, as Nick Wingfield and Brian X. Chen make clear in the New York Times this morning.

That advantage is expected to be manifest in some new announcements today as Apple CEO Tim Cook hosts the company’s annual conference for software developers at the Moscone conference center in San Francisco. One thing that’s pretty certain is a new iOS 6, if the banners spied at the venue by the Associated Press on Friday are to be believed.

“What’s not known is what new features will come with iOS 6, or when it will be released to consumers,” the story published in the Washington Post observes. “Usually, the new software becomes available for download around the time a new iPhone model appears.”

Mashable’s Emily Price is among the bloggers running photographs of signs that tout iOS 6 as the “the most advanced mobile operating system.” (It’s art and parcel of Apple’s “ability to craft buzz,” the Wall Street Journal’s Jessica E. Vascellaro wryly points out, without saying anything –- officially or even off the record.) While acknowledging that it’s anyone's guess what the tight-lipped company actually will be announcing, Price passed along widespread rumors of 3D maps that will compete with Google, deepening Facebook integration and bringing the voice-command app, Siri, to the iPad. 

The headline on Forbes contributor Anthony Wing Kosner’s post this morning is a bit more breathless: “Apple TV Will Change the Content We Consume on All Our Screens Forever.” The forthcoming iOS 6 will be integrated with iCloud, he writes, to bring email, contacts, calendars, documents, music, movies and photos to “the biggest screen in our lives” -- the TV -- “in a way that is fluid and synchronized with all of your other screens.”

This development, he predicts, will lead to a change in viewing habits: “The act of looking for content, which is an annoyance as a TV viewer, is a primary activity as a web surfer,” he writes. Such a profound shift would have major implication for big-brand television advertisers, of course -- as if there weren’t enough implications already out there.

The developer’s conference is “the most important event of the year,” John Casasanta, owner of software studio Tap Tap Tap tells the New York Times. “I’m having trouble thinking of any conference that comes anywhere near as relevant.” 

Wingfield and Chen go on to point out that “apps are among the strongest weapons Apple and Google have for marketing their mobile technologies to consumers. The bounty of software available for Android and iOS, as varied as racing games and apps for managing recordings on cable boxes, is a chief reason the mobile phone market has settled into a two-horse race.” 

Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices and phones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone have been seriously hampered by developers’ inattention, which in turn has led to investors’ cold shoulders. Wingfield and Chen compare the mobile OS situation to that of PCs a generation ago when developers favored Windows.  

Google’s Eric Schmidt’s prediction that a similar event would occur in the mobile market has not materialized, they write, even though the gap in sheer number of programs (about 500,000 for Android to 600,000 for Apple) is closing. But “for every 10 apps developers build, roughly seven are for Apple's mobile platform, according to recent data from mobile analytics service Flurry,” Vascellaro reports in the WSJ

Other announcements expected during the conference include a “refresh” of the MacBook laptop line, writes Vincent Chang on CNet. He has seen “leaked specs of a 15-inch Macbook Pro that purports to have a high-resolution Retina-class display -- 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. Other important details include Radeon discrete graphics, a Thunderbolt connector and up to four USB 3.0 ports.” Alrighty then.  

Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer writes that “although speculation that Apple would wrap up its new Mountain Lion Mac operating system early has flopped,…[it] will likely narrow the launch date to a specific month this summer.” It probably will announce the upgrade price, too, which is expected to be about $30. 

If you want to follow the developments as they unfold, Engadget is among the outlets that will be live blogging the event. Personally, I’ll be trekking on Breakneck Ridge when the keynote is delivered at 1 p.m. EDT -- with Map My Walk tracking every step and heartbeat on my iPhone, even as I use the device to take photographs and check for calls, messages and emails from my editors and colleagues. It is indeed becoming a very mobile world.

Tags: electronics
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