Why iOS won't become Apple's 'Windows XP'

Why iOS won't become Apple's 'Windows XP'

Summary: Is iOS so well-loved by users that any attempts by Apple to innovate or reinvent the operating system might stop people upgrading or buying new iDevices? I don't think so.

SHARE:
TOPICS: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad
33

Apple is selling millions of iOS devices every quarter, but some worry that the lack of innovation, combined with the fact that people find the operating system to be 'good enough' could turn Apple's mobile operating system into the company's own ' Windows XP.'

First, some background on what is meant by 'Windows XP' in this context. Microsoft released Windows XP back in October of 2001, and it remained the most widely used—and, most loved—operating system up until Windows 7 finally overtook it in August 2012. Windows XP held on to the reign of power for over a decade because Windows Vista didn't offer users enough of an incentive to upgrade. Not only did this 'upgrade ennui' affect Microsoft, but it also helped to put a damper on PC sales and the entire PC industry.

David Sobotta of ReadWrite thinks that iOS is on the way to suffering the same problem.

"To keep the iOS train moving and churning out profits," writes Sobotta, "Apple needs to innovate - but not so much that it scares away the legions of happy iPhone and iPad users."

He goes on to point out how "to turn the tide, iOS may need to be re-invented," but that this "is not easy to pull off without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs."

This may be the case, but I don't think that there's much danger of iOS becoming Apple's 'Windows XP.' Here's why:

  • Apple has been innovating and adding features to iOS with each iteration. Users don't seem scared of change.
  • iDevice owners are enthusiastic about new iOS updates, and each release shows rapid adoption. As opposed to Windows upgrades, people seem to enjoy upgrading iOS devices.
  • iOS is a free upgrade, Windows isn't. People like free.
  • Apple has maintained excellent backward compatibility for apps through the life of iOS. What people dislike about upgrading operating systems the way it breaks apps. Apple has, to the most part, made iOS upgrades as 'low drag' as possible. Apple recognises that iOS—and iDevices—are a platform for apps.
  • iDevices are continuing to fly off the shelves almost as fast as Apple can make them. Consumers seem oblivious to the whole "iOS may need to be re-invented" debate.

Bottom line, if Apple keeps iOS updates free, maintains app compatibility, and keeps upgrades simple, I don't see there being any risk of iOS becoming Apple's 'Windows XP.'

Topics: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

33 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • What is it about ex-

    ...Apple employees - Sobotta left(er...sacked) in 2004 which is an eon ago in the tech industry, that makes them experts about Apple in 2013?
    Maybe his Pomme Company ebook isn't selling too well and he needs to raise his profile?
    frogspaw
    • What innovation?

      I could give you a long list of innovations that Windows 8 has compared to almost nothing in OSX. Just to name a few...
      * OS Virtualization: You can't VM OSX, Apple works hard to ensure that. This totally limits its application in business but also for the OS (see below). W8 has hooks built into it that assist in optimization when virtualized.
      * Restore Points: You can take snap shot restore points with W8/7/V/XP. W8 has improved upon this in that really the whole OS is basically vituralized, running on a hyper layer. This allows bare metal provisioning.
      * W8 is highly integrated with SkyDrive and allows the sync of settings and files. Setup your PC how you want and you can sync those settings across all of your PCs.
      * Touch OS: Some like it, some don't but for those that like it, OSX does not have it.
      * Tablet OS: W8 is now a fully supported tablet OS and is the most flexible OS on the market. Get a hybrid and have a tablet that runs all your computer apps as well as tablet apps. Currently W8 is lacking metro apps but since this OS will soon be on millions of PCs the world over, that will change. (Note: W8 Phone may never achieve this because it does not share in the same synergy as W8).

      Not comparing iOS with W8, that's an Apples/Orange comparison (but I would take a W8 tablet over an iPad any day). But comparing OSX innovation to W8, W8 wins by leaps and bounds.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • Almost but not quite...

        RE: * OS Virtualization: You can't VM OSX, Apple works hard to ensure that. This totally limits its application in business but also for the OS (see below). W8 has hooks built into it that assist in optimization when virtualized.

        OS X can be virtualized. Apple previously limited virtualization to the server OS, rather than the desktop. In a business environment, virtualized desktops have a much lower demand than server consolidation. In recent years, covering 10.7, 10.8, and into 10.9, Apple provides changes to the EULA to allow virtualization. Your comparison would be like bashing Microsoft for not allowing virtualization of Windows 2000 and older. Your argument is partially true, but increasingly irrelevant given the number of generations since that limitation.

        RE: * Restore Points: You can take snap shot restore points with W8/7/V/XP. W8 has improved upon this in that really the whole OS is basically vituralized, running on a hyper layer. This allows bare metal provisioning.

        Time Machine dude. Time Machine.

        RE: * W8 is highly integrated with SkyDrive and allows the sync of settings and files. Setup your PC how you want and you can sync those settings across all of your PCs.

        Back to Mac / iDrive/

        RE: * Touch OS: Some like it, some don't but for those that like it, OSX does not have it.

        Apple provided touch-capable screens on a full computer, no not really. ModBook is a valid option. Also, the touch pad provides a number of improvements to interaction with the computer that Windows computers don't traditionally offer a good equivalent to. Again, I think this is one of your better points. I'm surprised Apple doesn't at least offer an expensive upgrade option directly from their site. Cheaper is better, but no listed options at the time of purchase.

        RE: * Tablet OS: W8 is now a fully supported tablet OS and is the most flexible OS on the market. Get a hybrid and have a tablet that runs all your computer apps as well as tablet apps. Currently W8 is lacking metro apps but since this OS will soon be on millions of PCs the world over, that will change. (Note: W8 Phone may never achieve this because it does not share in the same synergy as W8).

        Not sure I'd call Windows 8 flexible, unless you consider the contortions the user must do to kind of get it to do close enough to what your bare minimum requirements are. Bending over backwards does not make Windows 8 flexible. It makes the user flexible and frequently sore.

        RE: Not comparing iOS with W8, that's an Apples/Orange comparison...

        Yep, definitely not a straight forward comparison, unless you'd do the same comparison of iPhone vs Apple laptop or Win Phone vs Win 8 laptop.

        RE: (but I would take a W8 tablet over an iPad any day). But comparing OSX innovation to W8, W8 wins by leaps and bounds.

        From a usability stand point, I just don't see why anyone would want Metro vs iOS. I can see the benefits of computer vs iOS based on purely processor power, screen size, internal storage size, upgrade options, connectivity, etc. Not seeing innovation in Windows 8 at all.

        In short, I think Windows 8 fails as a desktop OS because it is optimized for touch and is impaired for non-touch devices. A touchy OS needs a touchy device. A non-touchy device needs an OS that is friendly without touch. Windows 8 fails to provide that non-touch friendliness. (For the record, I think iOS on an Apple laptop or desktop would be equally frustrating.)
        ct2193
  • Not quite...

    "Windows XP held on to the reign of power for over a decade because Windows Vista didn't offer users enough of an incentive to upgrade."



    Er.... not quite. Let's face it, to the typical user, Windows 7 is identical to Windows Vista except for one major difference: it actually works.

    Windows 7 has the same UI as Vista, and that's what ordinary users think of when they think of the OS. What made users accept the Windows 7 upgrade that they rejected for Vista was that they were finally confident that they would be getting an OS that wouldn't crash and burn, in spectacular fashion, on a regular basis (something I experienced regularly on a "made for Windows Vista" Lenovo laptop, and which *never* happened to me when I downgraded to XP, and then later updated to Windws 7).
    dsf3g
    • Windows Vista at SP2 works fine for me on a low-end dual core desktop PC

      All I had to do after purchase was add 1 GB of RAM to bring it up to 2 GB.

      I've no compelling need to upgrade to Windows 7 (or 8).
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • I've heard

        I've heard that SP2 made the OS fairly decent and stable. That's little comfort to those of us who struggled with an unusable computer with a "Made for Windows Vista" sticker on it.
        dsf3g
    • Windows 7 has the same UI as Vista

      Wrong, Vista and 7 have only similar UI, not the same.
      Mr.SV
      • pedantic

        99% of users can spot the differences between XP and Vista. I'd wager that same 99% couldn't distinguish Vista and 7.
        dsf3g
    • Crash and Burn

      If they wanted an OS that didn't crash and burn on a regular basis, they wouldn't have bought XP in the first place!

      XP is what drove me to Linux and OS X. Funnily, it was Vista that brought me back to using Windows as my main OS on a daily basis.
      wright_is
  • Comparing Apples to Oranges

    This and Sobotta's original article make no sense. The underlying OS in Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 is the NT operating System (which Microsoft has no plans to change). Each of these others are updated versions. iOS is the OS on Apple mobile devices, Version 6 is the latest iteration. On Apple computers OS X is the OS and Mountain Lion the latest version, get it?
    Because Apple has made the upgrade process both simple and painless (free - although early on they did charge a couple of times for major version upgrades) you don't even notice that you are getting a whole new OS version. Because interface changes have been much more iterative the visual aspects have not changed as noticeably, but they have changed. Version 7 could add something entirely (visually) new. Program compatibility has been fairly good but support for programs written for earlier versions is dropping all the time. This too is less noticeable because third party programs are also upgraded easily and painlessly (usually free). The infrastructure is just managed much better than Windows but at a noticeable cost of complete control by Apple. iOS is not going anywhere!
    aeioguy
  • If only because Apple will never make a Vista or Windows 8.

    "Apple has been innovating and adding features to iOS with each iteration. Users don't seem scared of change."

    Apple has been "innovating" rather slowly. The iOS I have on my iPhone today now is barely distinguishable from the first iterations of iOS. Apple's not gonna make some drastic overhaul of iOS like Microsoft did with Vista or Windows 8.

    "iOS is a free upgrade, Windows isn't. People like free."

    iOS upgrades are more akin to service packs rather than radical OS changes. Vista and Windows 8 drastically altered Windows - new versions of iOS barely change it.

    "Apple has maintained excellent backward compatibility for apps through the life of iOS."

    Again - basically because Apple is not completely overhauling iOS. There is no reason for backwards compatibility to break at all if all you're making is minor adjustments to an existing OS along the way.

    If Microsoft hadn't attempted to overhaul their OS so much in Vista and Windows 8, their record for backwards compatibility would be just as good. In fact, they've actually got excellent backwards compatibility record for an OS that changes so drastically. I've got an enormous amount of software made in the XP era that works well on my Windows 8 machine.

    This isn't really an apples to apples comparison.

    "I don't see there being any risk of iOS becoming Apple's 'Windows XP.'"

    If Apple ever decides to do a Vista or Windows 8 style rethink of the OS, it certainly will. The only reason why it really hasn't happened is because Apple doesn't make drastic changes like that.
    CobraA1
    • drastic changes

      Why would Apple want to make drastic changes to an OS, API or UI, that was well designed from before they released it? It is only because Windows APIs are still an example of macaroni, the attempts of Microsoft to patch/fix it result in drastic and mostly ad-hoc changes.

      Nothing prevents Apple from doing stupid things with the OS of course, they just haven't done anything like this so far.
      danbi
      • OS X Snow Leopard is Apple's Windows XP

        Lot's of OS X users have stuck with Snow Leopard because Apple dropped Rosetta support with the release of Lion. Thus, one could say that OS X Snow Leopard is Apple's Windows XP.

        Back on topic, AKH comparing iOS releases to Windows releases is hilarious as Apple's life-cycle support for an iOS version is approximately 2 years. Microsoft's Windows XP life-cycle support will have been approximately 13 years when it's finally put to rest next year. A more apt comparison is Windows RT. Surface RT devices will get 4 to 4.5 years of support from Microsoft (even it it ends up like the Kin).
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Keep in mind . . .

        "Why would Apple want to make drastic changes to an OS, API or UI, that was well designed from before they released it?"

        My point really being that this is not an apples to apples comparison. iOS is very new compared to Windows, and thus was able to learn a lot of lessons from mistakes of very long ago.

        Windows, on the other hand, has to maintain backwards compatibility with apps that were designed long before those lessons were learned. iOS doesn't have to do such a thing.
        CobraA1
    • For the most part

      I agree with you. I never liked Windows XP, the Fisher Price UI never allowed me to take XP seriously.

      Vista and 7 were the fresh air that Windows needed.

      Likewise, I feel Windows 8 is probably the best cross-over platform today. What I really like is that I can take a W8 tablet into a meeting and make notes, with a proper Wacom digitizing pen if I want, and when I get back to my desk, I plug it into a dock, which has a monitor, keyboard and mouse attached to allow me to continue working in desktop mode, with all my notes on the same machine.

      1 x investment in hardware
      1 x platform with my data on

      This makes it more efficient and cost effective.

      With iPad and Mac, I need 2 devices to accomplish what Windows 8 does with 1.

      And I do feel iOS needs an overhaul. I bought an iPhone 3GS, but I never saw a reason to upgrade to a 4 or 5, instead I went to Android and Windows Phone for my next handsets, because they were more flexible and felt more "modern".

      Using iOS, it feels like I am going back in time to 2007, with Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8, they feel modern and built to my needs, as opposed to be restricted to what Apple think I want.

      If Apple had made a MacBook Air tablet, with detachable keyboard, I might well have stuck with Apple for my next laptop, but having tried a Windows 8 tablet as desktop replacement, I certainly plan to go with a Win 8 tablet and not an iPad or Android.
      wright_is
      • Fisher Price

        LOL, I never like the design of the Start button in XP. Looked like it was drawn freehand in Microsoft Paint.

        But the OS itself always worked well for me, and still does.
        dsf3g
    • I like Apple but they have their head slapping moments too...

      RE: Apple will never make a Vista of Windows 8...

      When I think of blatant failures for Microsoft, I think back to Windows ME, which was nice to use, but a horror to trust because random corruption was easy to accomplish with power flickers, yanking the USB memory sticks, external HDD's, etc. From an aesthetic view, I liked it better than Windows 98, albeit subtle changes graphically. From a hardware support perspective, I very much liked being able to use Win NT or Win 9x drivers - whichever I could find for a given device. Considering my personal computer was both personal and business, I had plenty of hardware that only provided drivers for NT, not 9x as well as plenty of general consumer hardware that provided 9x drivers, not NT.

      RE: Apple has been "innovating" rather slowly. The iOS I have on my iPhone today now is barely distinguishable from the first iterations of iOS. Apple's not gonna make some drastic overhaul of iOS like Microsoft did with Vista or Windows 8.

      I think there's a simple concept of don't ruin what works well. Do we really need to change something if it's not an improvement? Why do something differently unless there's a benefit? Sometimes hardware capability drives change that was originally envisioned a long time ago but was impaired by technical limitations. I'd think 3D window shadows while dragging was probably envisioned a very long time ago and before most systems could handle it. It didn't come to Windows natively until XP (October 2001). Not sure when it came to Mac OS / Mac OS X. Pretty sure near the same time. Enter the approximate time that most Operating Systems started using Anti Alias in the UI.

      RE: "iOS is a free upgrade, Windows isn't. People like free." iOS upgrades are more akin to service packs rather than radical OS changes. Vista and Windows 8 drastically altered Windows - new versions of iOS barely change it.

      Yep, more like a service pack. Unfortunately the "free upgrade" forces frequent non-free hardware upgrades because of the short life cycle design Apple uses. I'm actually surprised how long of an iOS upgrade capability the iPhone 3GS and newer have been having. Maybe Apple's learning the not force hardware upgrades quite as often.

      RE: "Apple has maintained excellent backward compatibility for apps through the life of iOS."

      Unfortunately the developers didn't. I had Temple Run for the longest time and kept it updated on my old iPhone 3G. For some reason, the Brave edition of Temple Run required a 3GS minimum and a higher iOS version. After moving to a 3GS and updated iOS, I don't see any changes other than exchanging texture maps for a disney theme. Certainly nothing that should have required either an iOS nor hardware upgrade. Arbitrary is the reason to upgrade. Even though Apple didn't develop the game, it still reflects poorly on Apple.
      ct2193
  • Foolish as you look

    XP was actually had plenty of critics and issues when it first came out. It took two years to become the most used OS. Every single time Windows has undergone GUI changes, even fairly insignificant ones, they have been met with people (read internet bloggers trying to justify staying on payroll) complaining. What GUIs haven't had rather noticeable changes over the years?

    OS X and iOS.

    Again... why are you comparing full OS updates with mobile OS updates? You're wrong. Apple DOES charge for it's real OS updates- OS X. Microsoft does NOT charge for it's mobile phone updates.

    So what's the risk in keeping iOS the exact same UI? It snowballs. The smartphone market is still growing. Historically, most kids were getting a feature slider phone and then wanting the iPhone (status symbol). We have seen several reports indicating that this is actually changing, where it's not the status symbol. Similarly, with a two-year cycle, numbers won't change overnight. Problem is that those that actually get annoyed by their iPhone will change. My wife will be one of the many people switching away from the iPhone when her contract is up. They'll show the new phone (Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry/Ubuntu) to their friends, which chances are the friends have never actually seen in person nor played with in person. Once they have a chance, they'll see the only thing Apple has is the largest app pool (albeit with a shrinking lead last I checked). I reckon Windows 8 will become the OS leader in 2-3 years at which point I would imagine if iOS is the same, users will start moving away from static icons. Dynamic icons will be the way of the future.

    In short, Apple holds with the same UI as always, people will ultimately leave. History repeats itself. Apple fell from the lead once before and Jobs saved the day. That clearly can't happen again and Cook has already proven he's no Jobs.
    ikissfutebol
    • Or not

      " I reckon Windows 8 will become the OS leader in 2-3 years at which point I would imagine if iOS is the same, users will start moving away from static icons. Dynamic icons will be the way of the future. "

      I cant see any future where the majority of market share goes to a MS mobile OS. It never was before, and there isnt much of a reason to expect that to change. Android is evolving as fast as anything else. RIM will make a run at keeping their corporate base, and might expand their OS share. At the rate people get new smartphones, and will most likely continue to, arguments about Android OS fragmentation are irrelevant. Apple do a major overhaul sooner or later.
      Non-Euclidean
      • Ummm...

        "I cant see any future where the majority of market share goes to a MS mobile OS. It never was before, and there isnt much of a reason to expect that to change"

        So your argument is since Microsoft has never had the lead it never will? Wow. That's not only weak, it's utterly incorrect. By that logic, first to market is always the leader. That would also imply Apple and Android aren't 1 and 2. Really, your whole responses just sounds like you're a huge fan of Android. Not to mention, the initial article and my response are void of the mention of Android (other than my mentioning it as an iOS alternative).

        Look up the video on TED of Simon Sinek's speech "How great leaders inspire action". He discusses how Apple is so successful at getting people to buy their products, but more importantly, how numbers work with innovators, early adapters, etc. In short, there aren't enough people left with RIM to tip the scale once again. If your UI is only seen by a small portion of business people on tablets and smartphones, your not going to have enough exposure.

        Do I think Windows Phone will over take Android? No. Microsoft has the minimum requirements for the current version that would make it nearly impossible to compete with Android on the lowest of low end, which is where some much of Android's huge lead is located (developing/emerging markets). Do I think Windows Phone will over take iOS? As I said before- until you really embrace what MS did with Live Tiles, you fail to see the use in them (aka use them and not just read about them or see screen shots). If iOS stays on course, people will ultimately leave them. If they make too big of a GUI change, not only would it be very un-Apple, they would probably lose a lot of those concerned with ease of use.
        ikissfutebol