Apple’s Relentless Push Forward

With the release of iOS 5 and a slew of new and updated first party apps, Apple made an incredibly bold move that has gone relatively unnoticed amid all the other hype. Many of Apple’s own iOS apps now require iOS 5. And those very apps are currently featured prominently in the App Store.

The average iPhone owner who never syncs to a computer and may not have even heard about the release of iOS 5 will now see this message when trying to install one of Apple’s new apps:

That is absolutely remarkable. At a time when most current Android devices — even the ones that will be sold over the holiday shopping season — wont ever have the option to install Android 4.0, Apple is specifically pushing the iOS install base forward. Apple wants all iOS users on iOS 5, not just the ones who buy a brand new device.

iOS 5 is a major turning point for the entire iOS ecosystem. Although Apple has always made it relatively easy — and most often free — to upgrade iOS, users will now be notified of available upgrades and be able to quickly install them right on the device. The 25 million downloads of iOS 5 in the first week of its release will pale in comparison to future upgrades when users won’t even have to plug their device into a computer.

I just can’t overstate what a big deal this is for the platform. Developers will more quickly be able to abandon support for older versions of iOS, which will save millions of man hours of coding and testing. Time will also be spent more efficiently as developers start using the iOS 5 SDK which streamlined development in many very fundamental ways. There’s iCloud backup and sync, Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), UI Storyboards, UIKit customization, Twitter integration, and so much more.

From the sidelines it may look like Android and Windows Phone 7 are quickly catching up — and they are making tremendous strides in the right direction — but the iOS platform is much further ahead than most people realize, and iOS 5 shows that Apple is pushing faster and looking further into the future than ever before.

Recent iPhone commercials have touted; “If you don’t have an iPhone… well, you don’t have an iPhone”. That’s been true since the iPhone was first launched in 2007 and here we are in 2011 with all other mobile platforms still playing from behind. The speed, efficiency, and innovation iOS 5 enables for developers — both 3rd party and Apple’s own software teams — will only widen the gap in 2012.