Mobile OS Madness Ahead In June
When Apple, Google, and Microsoft all hold developer events in San Francisco in June, you'll get a peek at what's next for smartphones. Here's what might pop up.
Typically, these events are spread out. Microsoft typically holds its MIXX developer conference in February or March, and Google I/O is usually in April or May. This year all these events are scheduled back-to-back between June 11 and June 28.
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Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is set for June 11-15 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Microsoft's event, the Windows Phone Developer Summit, is scheduled for June 20 and 21. A location has yet to be announced, though it will likely be at Moscone. Last, Google I/O is taking place at Moscone June 27-29.
In other words, we'll learn about changes to iOS, Windows Phone, and Android in an action-packed, 17-day timeframe. It's going to be fun. Here's what we might see.
-- Worldwide Developer Conference (iOS). Apple is likely to offer a preview of iOS 6, which is the platform used by the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Reports are mixed on whether iOS 6 will be a transformational change for Apple's smartphone platform. Though iOS has added hundreds, if not thousands, of new features since its 2007 debut, the overall look and feel of the platform is beginning to look dated.
Possible new features on deck: a brand new Maps app and improved app compatibility with iCloud. InformationWeek's Tom Claburn has a laundry list of features he'd like to see in iOS. They include better or replaceable native apps, an API for Siri, and choice of browser.
Apple always manages to pull off a few surprises with its iOS revelations. Once it announces a new iOS, Apple will make a beta available to developers that will go through 10 to 12 weeks of updates before general release to the public. That aligns things pretty well with a probable October debut of the iPhone 5.
-- Windows Phone Developer Summit (Windows Phone 8). Microsoft has yet to admit that Windows Phone 8 exists. It might not yet have an official name (the code name is Apollo), but it wouldn't make sense for Microsoft to refer to the next version of Windows Phone as anything other than Windows Phone 8. In fact, Microsoft's carrier and handset partners are already referring to Apollo as Windows Phone 8, even if Microsoft isn't.
Windows Phone 8 will tie together all the work Microsoft has done with Zune, Windows Phone 7, and Windows 8 over the last several years. Microsoft revealed Windows 8 and its desktop and tablet components in February. Windows 8 is expected to reach general availability by this fall. Based on my experience with Microsoft's system-level updates, a June debut of Windows Phone 8 and its developer tools points to a fall release for the final build of the software.
What sort of features will we see? Hard to say. The most important aspect will be the similarities between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. It will present a more cohesive look and feel--which could help Microsoft boost adoption of Windows Phone. Other possibilities include a zippier user interface, support for enterprise VPNs, a revamped IE browser, and platform-level Skype integration.
-- Google I/O (Android 5.0 Jelly Bean). Google is delaying its Google I/O developer event by more than six weeks compared to previous years. The Android-maker didn't provide a reason for the delay. It simply could be related to venue availability. Or, it could be because Google needed the additional time to pull together code for the next version of Android.
Looking back a bit, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich was released to OEMs in November 2011. Only now are we starting to see the first wave of devices arrive with Android 4.0 on board. Based on what I saw this past week while attending the CTIA wireless trade show, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will begin to gather critical mass in June and July when a wave of new handsets reach the market with the software installed.
This begs the question, is it too early for Android 5.0? It might be.
Google previously has said it intended to scale back new versions of Android to once-per-year updates, which keeps it on pace with competitors Apple and Microsoft. If Google doesn't show off a brand-new version of Android, I expect it will at the very least launch major new apps, services, or components of the operating system. For example, last year's Google I/O brought the Google Music service, which later became a part of the Google Play Store.
So, what do you think? Is June going to be the single most exciting month in the history of smartphones? It certainly has the potential to be. I look forward to all the developer events on the calendar to see what we'll be talking about for the rest of the year.
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