Investigating the latest mobile offerings from Apple and Microsoft

Continuing with the mobile series I promised a few weeks back, here is the third instalment (a little later than promised, my apologies for this) that will further investigate the offerings of Apple and Microsoft, this follows part 2 where I outlined the offerings of RIM and Google.

Apple

For many the Apple iPhone came from nowhere to everywhere in a heartbeat, but in actual fact some characteristics and features of the iPhone can be traced back to the Message Pad produced by Apple in the mid 90’s.

It was back in 2003 that Steve Jobs Apple’s CEO stated that traditional tablet PC’s and PDA’s were not acceptable and that cell phones would become important devices for portable information access, should acceptable synchronisation software become available. It was around this time that Apple directed its focus away from developing the message pad and on to the iPod and iTunes (the synchronisation software Jobs had mentioned).

Today iPhone’s are the only device to use the iTunes software as well as the iOS operating platform, this being seen as the major negative for adopting Apple to some, the reason this may be the case could be traced back to before the release of the iPhone, when Apple partnered with Motorola to release the first phone to use iTunes, the ROKR E1.

Apple and Jobs in particular were not happy with the ROKR and felt that they were having to compromise and therefore were not producing the phone they wanted. Shortly after discontinuing the support for the ROKR the iPhone was announced and the rest they say is history.

When the iPhone was released Apple took the Smartphone market to the next level, the previous level having been set by RIM, albeit with Apple heavily focusing on the consumer market compared to RIM with the business market.

The successful adoption of the iPhone can be credited to a few factors one of which being the app store. The app store has been a huge success, with reported revenues of $1.78bn in 2010, accounting for an eye watering 82.7% of the overall app market, meaning Apple really are the only giant in the app market (at this time).

Apple’s new products are commonly introduced to the public via one big launch event a year, with the objective of taking the product straight to the early majority section of the technology adoption lifecycle, missing the innovators and early adopters thus resulting in the product being adopted quickly by the masses.

This year’s Apple event held in June announced the launch of iOS 5 and iCloud, while these are not addressing the concerns of some regarding restrictions and locked-in, many other new features are offered such as the notification centre and iMessage, although this has lead to some quarters rightly stating these new features are currently offered by competitors and are therefore not innovative, which is what has become expected by Apple.

Continuing with the synchronisation point made by Jobs back in 2003, the iCloud now brings the synchronisation capabilities of multiple Apple devices in to the new era by removing the need to connect to a pc, instead utilising the advantages of the cloud.

The third new product announced by Apple was the Lion operating system for the Mac; this leads to my one small criticism of Apple. Currently Apple has a significant stake of the mobile market but little of the laptop market, with Lion it seems as if they are trying to tie both together which could jeopardise their position in the mobile market.

Apple have a reputation of packaging the latest technology and selling at a premium price, for me this will only be the case as long as Apple wish to keep full control over both the hardware and software and can therefore ensure the quality of its products are at the standard it’s loyal following have come accustomed to.

Microsoft

The Windows Mobile share of the Smartphone market was decreasing quarterly and as a result Microsoft announced the Windows Phone 7 early in 2010 with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saying “In a crowded market filled with phones that look the same and do the same things, I challenged the team to deliver a different kind of mobile experience.

Windows Phone 7 Series marks a turning point toward phones that truly reflect the speed of people’s lives and their need to connect to other people and all kinds of seamless experiences.”

The statement from Ballmer has been delivered with a gigantic amount of changes having been made to the platform, meaning that Windows Phone 7 is completely unrecognisable from Windows Mobile (which may not necessarily be a bad thing) and which is now heavily geared towards the consumer market, in particular generation-Z.

With the younger generation loving the new paradigm with its tile approach along with numerous new features such as a highly integrated social feed, Windows media and games hub that integrates with XBOX live to name but a few, Windows Phone 7 is definitely the new kid on the block.

I have mentioned a couple of times in previous entries the issue developers face with Android running on various devices and not utilising the specific hardware, Microsoft are operating a strict policy with regards to the selected hardware the Windows Phone 7 operating system will run on to ensure that its community does not encounter the same difficulties.

One such agreement that has grabbed quite a lot of attention recently is the partnership between Microsoft and Nokia, resulting in Nokia ceasing to use the Symbian and MeeGo operating system in favour of Windows Phone 7 for the time being. The bold move by Nokia puts a lot of faith in the Windows Phone 7 platform with the aim of increasing unit sales to fend off competition from Apple and others who have recently gained market share from Nokia on the number of shipped devices.

As a result of this partnership the rumour mill has started as to the possibility of Microsoft acquiring Nokia in the future, this rumour does seem plausible when looking at Microsoft’s $8.5 Billion takeover of Skype who to date haven’t generated any revenue, could the motive behind this takeover be to compete with Apple’s FaceTime?

Adoption of Windows Phone 7 is steadily growing and according to Microsoft the amount of developers stands at around 36,000 with this number increasing by about 1,200 each week, of this community around 40% have already published an app. To co-inside with Windows Phone 7 the latest Windows operating system (code name Windows 8 ) will soon be available with similar concepts, offering a synergy between the user experience regardless of using a mobile device, desktop etc.

With an expected 60 per cent growth in the Smartphone market during 2011, the race is well on its way to see which of the four giants can capitalise.

In the three parts of this mobile series I have covered why mobile is important, how the market will continue to grow in the future as well as giving an overview of the RIM, Google, Apple and Microsoft offerings. The last part will show how this all impacts on the enterprise and answers the question of what can be done to ensure true enterprise mobility not just now but way in to the future.

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David Akka is Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK. David is a successful executive manager with a proven track record as a general manager with a strong background in sales, marketing, business development and operations. Past experience in technology and service delivery include both UK and European responsibilities.