At what point do mobile users really become bored with iOS?
Apple’s customers are used to the way this software works, and there is a certain elegance and simplicity that none of the other vendors in the space are able to duplicate. Some of this is due to the fact that Apple holds key patents to fundamental aspects of how mobile operating systems are used and behave, as we have seen with the most recent patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung.
It is certainly true that the basic iOS user interface itself has not changed fundamentally since the launch of the product. There have been incremental changes introduced with each successive release that have added new features as the company has warranted it. I have no doubt that the company will devote whatever resources are necessary to keep iOS at the top of its game.
I think that iOS has held up so well only because its fundamental core components were so well-designed in the first place, with mature technologies that were borrowed from Mac OS X. For that reason, the developer tools and executable environment has been that much more robust than what Android or until very recently, what Microsoft has been able to offer with Windows Phone or RIM has with BlackBerry OS 10.
We don’t really know what the lifespan of a modern smartphone OS is. The only other examples we have to go from is RIM and the old-school BlackBerry OS Symbian, both of which realistically had a 10-year lifespan. If we look at old-school Palm OS, which I would barely qualify as a modern smartphone OS, they also peaked at about 10 years.
But none of these companies had the resources of Apple and they weren’t developing very fundamental, industry-disrupting technologies.
Does iOS need an overhaul?
If we look at how Mac OS X and iOS are evolving, they appear to be on a very close, parallel track with major intersections of functionality that seem to be ported over to the other on an annual basis.
So in a sense iOS and Mac OS X are constantly overhauling each other and swapping DNA so that the end-user gets a very seamless experience across their mobile and desktop computing platforms. I’ve also pointed out in the past that Mac OS X and iOS appear to be on a path of platform convergence. Based on what we have seen in iOS 6 and in the last two Mac OS X releases, all evidence seems to point towards Apple moving towards a unified platform.
If I were on Apple's Board of Directors, I would suggest that the company make strategic acquisitions using Apple’s war chest to fill the gaps with assets, personnel and partnerships that are needed to be secured in order to maintain platform dominance. And if I were in charge of Apple's software engineering, I would continue the plan of swapping essential software DNA back and forth between Mac and iOS.
Apple blew it with iOS 6 Maps, but as I said before, this is a speedbump, not a crash and burn. The history of this industry is peppered with many examples of companies which have recovered and remained successful despite of some pretty bonehead mistakes. Some of which were even written off as irrelevant and were genuinely expected to fall off the edge of a precipice.
I can think of another iconic technology company with very similar brand recognition that was considered a "dinosaur" or "behind the times" or even "arrogant" nearly 20 years ago, but is now the undisputed leader in enterprise technology services, hardware and software: IBM.
By the same token, Apple isn't a small company that can easily be deterred from its mission of excellence by messing up a popular software feature in its mobile operating system. We're talking about a powerful institutional entity with well over 100 billion dollars in cash.