When Apple previewed iOS 5 yesterday, they set the Mac-related blogosphere on fire. Thank God the iPhone gets a Hardware Camera Button, they exclaimed. Instead of the God, iPhone users should redirect their thank-you notes to Bill Gates. Actually, the new iPhone 5 operating system has a handful of features that Microsoft introduced with the Windows Phone 7 that has been shipping since last fall. Windows mobile application development is already catching up on the iPhone application market, as more and more people realize the innovative potential of Microsoft that was long considered Apple-only territory.
Features that the Windows phone had before the iPhone got them:
• The Windows phone already uses the volume-up button as an instant shortcut to the phone’s camera function (very handy since photo ops don’t like to wait around till you entered that app).
• Windows phone users can already upload pictures to a cloud to access them from any online device (who’s innovative now?)
• The Windows phone already has easy-to-dismiss notifications on the top of the screen (means less clicks for the user).
Also, the Windows phone 7 features central music hub Zune and scores high on gaming, traditionally a Microsoft stronghold. Last week, the company officially limited app approval to 20 a day, not to stop Windows mobile application development short in its tracks, but to promote quality over quantity. With 350,000 iPhone applications and counting we could soon see another copy attempt by Apple.
Features that Windows revealed before Apple:
• The Windows phone features built-in Twitter and unlimited same-manufacturer messaging as part of their 7.5 or Mango update that's gonna be available in the fall (say from iPhone to iPhone or Windows phone to Windows phone).
• iOS 5 features an ergonomically split keyboard almost identically to the one featured in Microsoft’s Windows 8 preview (look at the picture here, hint: Microsoft's the bottom one).
Why is Apple still the undisputed leader of the market then? Well, if you looked at the picture, you probably noticed the difference in design. Apple is still very slick, very shiny, very I-want-it. That’s why users are buying.
And to be fair, Microsoft is trying to go after Apple in that respect. The new tile-based home screen of the Windows phone (and soon also a feature of Windows 8) is taking the app idea to a whole different level. While Apple is set on predatory cats when naming the operating systems, Microsoft is trying out fruits now, regardless the fact that their competitor is squatting the most popular item. Call that a bold move!
No matter how you look at it, borrowing will be inevitable, no matter if it's design, operating systems or mobile application development. While Apple cannot borrow Microsoft’s expertise on operating systems, Microsoft might or might not be able to borrow Apple’s specialty: Sales.