"I'M WILLING to go thermonuclear war on this," Apple's late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs famously told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, about Google's "grand theft" of Apple's iOS mobile operating system for its own competing Android system.

Well, since then, despite a couple of lawsuits fired off at hardware manufacturers that use Android, such as Samsung and HTC, Android has gone on to overtake iOS as the world's most widely used mobile operating system, which is not to say that Apple's market share has not also been growing in leaps and bounds.

The latest figures from market research firm IDC, in its recently published report on global smartphone market share for the first quarter of this year, show that Android shipments jumped 145% from the first quarter of last year to 89,9-million units. iPhone shipments climbed 88,7% over the same period to 35,1-million, which gave Apple 23% of the smartphone market compared with Google's 59%.

So much for going "thermonuclear war" through the courts. No, the way for Apple to win back some of that lost market share is to keep putting out an operating system that is better than Android, so that even if consumers tend to buy Android devices as their first smartphone, because they are relatively inexpensive, they'll be unable to escape the conclusion later on that they would be better off owning an iPhone.

And this, I am pleased to say, is what Apple seems to be doing under the leadership of Tim Cook, who this week unveiled some of the features of the new iOS6 at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers' Conference. The new version of the operating system will be released as a free download in the spring.

From what Cook revealed of the 200 or so new features in iOS6, the new operating system will catch up with features in which Apple has lagged behind Google and introduce many more new ones that will leave Google scrambling to keep up, even as it prepares to announce the launch of Jellybean, its latest version of Android.

The biggest no-brainer of all the new features is iOS-wide integration with Facebook, which has been notable by its absence since Twitter integration was included with iOS5. iPhone (and iPad) users will now be able to share and "like" on Facebook from anywhere in the operating system, much as they have been able to do on Android devices for a while.

Next up is Apple's untenable relationship with Google when it comes to maps. iOS6 ditches Google Maps, which Apple has used as its back end until now, and introduces Apple Maps, with maps licensed from navigation leader TomTom and, for the first time on Apple devices, turn-by-turn navigation, which has also been available on Android devices for some time.

The biggest, most anticipated changes will be to Apple's Siri digital assistant, which I've panned in this column for its shortcomings. It will be beefed up considerably in terms of its abilities and could, in future, be the way for Apple to challenge Google in the field in which it is the real leader - search.

The new "Do Not Disturb" feature looks like it will be one of my favourites. It allows you to mute all notifications, apart from those you specify should be allowed through - a blessing in this age of information overload and incessant bleeps, pings and rings.

All of this, of course, confirms this as a two-horse race, as I've described it before, with Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Research In Motion's BlackBerry Operating System and Accenture's Symbian relegated to losers and also-rans. Jobs would definitely approve.

ogradyk@bdfm.co.za