∞ Mobile industry eyes Apple as developer conference nears

The eyes of the mobile industry are squarely focused on Cupertino, Calif. as Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is set to kick off on Monday. First unveiled at a special event at the company’s campus, the highlight of the conference will be an updated version of iPhone OS 3.0.

iPhone OS 3.0 promises to be the most full-featured operating system to date. Based on the preview shown in March, the new operating system will add almost every feature requested by users including copy and paste, in-app purchases, MMS (multimedia messaging system) support, and push notifications, among others.

“All eyes are on WWDC right now,” said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis for media and technology research firm Interpret. “It’s about momentum, another sell out crowd and so much reaction in the market. A good deal of the market is involved in chasing Apple.”

It makes sense that the rest of the industry should be focused on Apple. In addition to having an advanced operating system, it has one of the most successful smart phones on the market, supported by what has become the sleeping giant of the mobile world, the App Store.

The success of the App Store has led two industry leaders, Nokia and RIM, to launch their own application stores. RIM used CTIA to unveil BlackBerry App World in late March, while Nokia, the world’s largest cell phone maker, announced the Ovi Application Store in February.

It’s not just the App Store that has competitors rallying. In the past year the industry has seen a flurry of touch-screen phone releases. As you would expect, most mimic the functionality of the iPhone.

Even with those release and announcements of application stores, the competition is going to where Apple is today, not where they are going. That is why the industry is focused on the company, to try to figure out where they are going.

Apple has a history of mapping the future of a market. The iPod is a perfect example of how it entered an existing market, completely turned it on its ear and then took over. It’s this market strength that Apple is beginning to impose on the mobile industry.

“Certainly Apple’s competitors are watching very closely,” said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at The NPD Group. However, Rubin points out that some competitors are trying to differentiate themselves from Apple by offering a variety of features not found on the iPhone like a physical keyboard.

WWDC has sold out for the second year in a row, showing the amount of interest developers have in developing for the iPhone. If recent history is an indication, Apple will once again set the pace for the industry at the conference.

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference runs from June 8-12 in San Francisco, Calif.