IOS update alone not likely to give Apple much of a boost

Apple will be looking to put the thrill back into its mobile strategy at next week’s annual conference for developers, where the company is expected to unveil an update for its mobile operating system and possibly a music subscription service.

It was not too long ago that Apple was the undisputed king of smartphones but, in the past year the company has seen growing competition from Samsung as well as made some gaffs, such as releasing a much-maligned maps service. As a result, sales – while still strong – have lost some of their fervor and the iPhone’s cache has dropped.

“Apple’s expected to unveil an iOS redesign and a much needed update that will realign the company with modern design – it’s a way to make iOS sexy again,” said Krishna Subramanian, chief marketing officer at Velti, San Francisco. “However, Apple isn’t actually stepping up to deliver any game-changing products or features.

“They’re just putting more makeup on the front end of a product, which won’t drive sales,” he said. “IOS 7 won’t motivate users to buy new iPhones or tablets, unless they need them.

“Without new hardware, Apple hasn’t done anything to entice developers to build for the platform. As a result, there will be less content to drive market share.”

Design update

While no major hardware announcements are expected next week, one of the big developments is likely to be an update to the iOS mobile operating system, with a focus on design.

Apple needs to woo mobile application developers and keep them excited about creating new apps for the platform in order to maintain and grow the iOS ecosystem, which is why it needs to keep its software fresh.

IOS had a 39 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market in March, up slightly, while Android’s share came in at 52 percent, down slightly, according to recent figures from ComScore.

The most significant expected development to iOS7 to come out of the developer’s conference is a total overhaul of the design, which could mean developers will need to update their apps to ensure they are consistent with the new look.

If the new iOS redesign clicks with consumers this could translate to more in-app engagement from consumers, which would appeal to marketers.

Making music

Apple is also expected to launch a subscription-based music service as Spotify and other music subscription services continue to grow, challenging iTunes’ hold on the mobile music space.

“A focus on software and services is right at this time for Apple, as they have so many opportunities to create the ‘killer applications’ to truly unlock the potential of the hardware,” said Adam Levene, chief strategy officer at Grapple, London.

“I’m excited to see what Apple will unveil in the music streaming space,” he said. “With Google recently unveiling its music streaming service and Spotify becoming ever more popular internationally, it’s important that Apple protects the long-term future of iTunes.”

It is unclear if new software alone will be enough to drum up some much needed excitement for the Apple ecosystem.

Still, the focus on software is an important and necessary step for Apple in order to compete more effectively against Android, which has been quickly advancing.

“Apple must put some magic back into its operating system,” Mr. Levene said.

“Tim Cook, CEO recently spoke about the company’s special blend of hardware, software and services, however it’s arguable that their focus over the past few years has been on hardware,” he said. “In that time, Google’s Android operating system has dramatically advanced, and truly captured the imagination of not only developers and marketers, but also importantly consumers.

“A renewed interest in Apple’s flagship operating system is paramount; especially to appeal to the large following of early adopters who may have been using what is essentially the same software since 2008.”

Maintaining stickiness

By reinvigorating its mobile operating system, Apple hopes to be able to encourage more users to stay within the iOS ecosystem when it comes time to purchase their next device.

If successful, this will also help maintain interest in iOS from marketers.

Apple is also thought to be adding new capabilities in cloud-based sharing and security to make iOS devices more enterprise friendly.

“Apple must continue to woo the developers making the development process as simpler as possible to maintain and grow the iOS ecosystem competitive advantage,” said Neil Shah, senior analyst for the global wireless practice at Strategy Analytics, Newton, MA.

“Adding newer features and keeping it fresh with respect to the competition should be high on agenda,” he said.

“This will eventually help Apple to maintain ecosystem stickiness, reduce churn and thus help mobile marketers which have invested thousands of dollars into iOS apps and services development achieve positive ROI.”



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