In 2013, Can Apple Compete on Software?

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Hardware has been a historic strong point for Apple. Whether it’s IBM or Samsung, Apple’s hardware and design expertise has helped the company survive – and, in many cases, thrive – in various markets.

But software is somewhat of a different story. While the quality of Apple’s software has historically been high, Apple does have a track record that points to a troubled relationship with software. Before OS X, Apple was saddled with an inferior product that couldn’t compete with the then-flagship Windows 95.

iOS, at least for the first few years, didn’t look as if it would follow down this path. For years, Apple chugged along, releasing updates that contained both interesting features and useful APIs for developers. With iOS 6, signs of decay arose. There was a lack of major changes throughout the new OS, with the only notable user feature being Apple’s new mapping system. That new mapping system was, by many accounts, a failure.

Other issues have arisen, such as Siri being less than stellar. The Siri issues translate directly to Apple’s inability to produce fantastic, web-native applications. While iCloud is a huge step above MobileMe in terms of features and functionality, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the best of Google or Microsoft in many aspects. And while iCloud is continually improving, other parts of iOS haven’t been so lucky.

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In other words, Apple has to step up its game. With the recent executive reshuffle, Apple’s software teams seem more finely tuned than ever. With the design expertise of Ive and the technical know-how of Federighi, who has been a key player in the most recent (and most successful) releases of Mac OS X since Snow Leopard, there could will be a new force to reckon with.

My personal prediction is that yes, Apple can rise to meet the challenge. In 2013, it will be less of a matter of if they will, but when they will: if they rise late, they may have missed the party. Android is improving at a break-neck pace that doesn’t seem to be letting up. The improvements in Android will directly translate to higher customer satisfaction, as devices are updated and the dirt cheap Nexus 4 continues selling like hot cakes.

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