Apple Employs Fragmentation in Forced Upgrade Strategy

by Jeff Wiener on June 14, 2012

While Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) went off much as expected on Monday, I have to admit that for the first time since the untimely and unfortunate passing of Steve Jobs, the gigantic hole in Apple’s product plan left by his absence was readily apparent. Seemingly gone are the days when Apple fans like me would look forward to the WWDC event, my interest always piqued by Apple’s clever marketing campaigns, replaced now with conferences that offer nothing more than what the tech world was able to guess weeks previous.

With that, the WWDC offered the tech world exactly what was expected, the next iteration of the company’s operating system, iOS 6–which struck me more as a relatively stagnant mash-up of other platform’s features as opposed to any real Apple innovation– Facebook integration, and an entirely new navigation program that Apple has married to its popular (albeit sometimes annoying) Siri voice assistant.

But in all this what I was most surprised about was the presence of something I would guess the late Steve Jobs would never have allowed into his Apple product arsenal…fragmentation.

Often times looking at the Top Ten list of the mobile market’s currently most popular devices, Apple will usually occupy more than one spot, the previous iterations of its iPhones or iPads often times competing with the company’s latest offerings. While the features have differed between the various generations of Apple products, to date the Cupertino Company has prided itself on the fact that, despite the age of the device, the user experience will be fairly universal.

In fact, while Google has struggled to keep control over the user experience on its Android platform–as any partner, developer, or even user can alter Android to suit individual needs– Apple has made sure to sharply juxtapose itself to Google’s situation, always going out of its way to make sure that everyone knows that iOS has no fragmentation…that is until now.

The issue that I noticed during Monday’s WWDC is that users of anything earlier than the latest iPhone 4S or the new iPad are simply out of luck when it comes to most of Apple’s newest toys. This means that despite the fact that Apple still actively markets older versions of its phones, those phones will have neither Siri nor the company’s new turn-by-turn navigation platform.

This means that while Apple’s marketing campaign for its WWDC stated that iOS 6 would “take your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch in entirely new directions,” the reality is that only a select few generations of those devices will see any change, because only the newest Apple phones will even get an iOS 6 upgrade.

So for the first time since Steve Jobs rolled out the first iPhone we see iOS fragmentation breaking through the company’s sterling veneer, the company now currently offering three phones with different feature sets and three tablets with different feature sets, an issue that will no longer give users the same uniform iPhone experience and will likely be a nightmare for iOS developers. What’s worse, it seems Apple has done this on purpose; a deliberate, aggressive, and unfair ploy to force users to upgrade their iPhones. For shame!

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