Could it be? Apple’s going the “faster, better, cheaper” route? The surprising component would be the cheaper piece, obviously. Odds are, you either stopped paying attention (intentionally) or are just plain tired of the ridiculous hype surrounding the “iPhone 5 leaks” and product launch details over the last few months. But the fact is, the leaks reveal what are common-sense “must-haves” when it comes to the latest mobile landscape powered by Droid, Apple and Blackberry (latest comScore report shows U.S. Smartphone market tops 110 million).

These features include:

– Larger Screen
– 4G LTE wireless cellular-based Internet connection
– Faster (more powerful processor)
– Improved Battery Life (power management)
– Lighter/Sleeker Form Factor
– Lower Cost (depends on carrier)

Nearly all those features tie into either catching up or matching its Android device competition, and, in a subtle way, echoes the wave of the early 90s because Apple is actually playing catch-up – even though they will continue to maintain a strong segment of the market for years to come. Apple’s bottom line isn’t going to take a hit when looking out 2 to 3 years, but it’s important to take note of these issues when it comes to delivering your company’s web content to mobile users and deploying mobile applications over the long term.  Instead of speculating 3-5 years out, try to forecast the landscape 5-10 years from now when planning your mobile initiative.

Picture a 95% Droid device market capture in 5+ years. Will this be a replay of Apple v. Microsoft? Why didn’t Apple team up with Samsung, Motorola and some other key manufacturers to license their operating system and avoid this repeat scenario?

The key difference between now and then is content versus hardware/software proprietary advantages over the competition. But does Apple truly have a major advantage when it comes to content long term? Music, videos, apps? Apps for sure right now, but Droid is not far behind (talking quality here, not quantity). When it comes to music, movies, and other content, I don’t see a major difference between Apple and its competition – mainly the likes of Amazon and Google. Also, Apple makes accessing their content more difficult in some ways when compared to Amazon – most people have shopped on Amazon, but haven’t downloaded apps onto an Apple device. Therefore,  many still have no clue how the process works, and that’s a major weakness as apps make their way onto our televisions, car stereo systems, GPS units, etc.

Can Apple avoid getting slaughtered long term when going head-to-head against Google and Amazon? Long term, Apple is in serious trouble. The question is: when the content mix is on equal footing, and Amazon and Google have surpassed Apple’s offerings or even simply matched them – but with faster, cheaper and the same or easier ways of accessing content, how can Apple not end up back right where they started after the last slaughter by Microsoft?

Ironically, without Jobs in the mix, now Apple has a better chance than ever to avoid sticking (keeping) their head in the ground and ignoring the competition (as well as future market and usage trends). It’s clear from recent moves that Apple is playing smarter this time and leveraging its position to avoid getting taken out again, but there’s still a lot of game left to be played.

The race continues and watching it unfold is beyond interesting, no doubt. If you want to have some fun, instead of paying attention to the iPhone, and other hardware launches – check out Apple’s strategy and the bubbling speculation regarding Apple TV and other content delivery and creation plays. Moving forward, that’s where the real game is being played.