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  • The Leopard Report: Exaggerating the Impact of 10.5’s Delay

    April 16th, 2007

    I must admit that I am seldom surprised by the things I hear from Apple these days. Even though they strive for secrecy, the rumor mills work overtime whenever a major product announcement is forthcoming. So when the iPhone was unleashed, such elements as the touch screen and other frills weren't all that amazing, although the specifics hadn't been revealed to any large extent.

    Just imagine, for example, an iPod with a built-in phone, and I bet you could devise the fundamentals of what the iPhone has become even though you didn't know all the fine details.

    Through all this, we all believed that Leopard would appear on time, in the spring, precisely as Apple claimed, and most likely on the first day of the WWDC, on June 11. Any day now, Apple would call a press conference to reveal all the "top secret" information they'd withheld from us about Leopard since it was unveiled last June.

    So what was really going on behind the scenes? Well, there were rumors that Leopard's development had struck some land mines, and that prerelease versions were crude, surely not an indication that 10.5 was in an advanced state of completion. Of course, you shouldn't take those rumors at face value, since a story about a problem has the potential of generating more hits than a story that everything is moving along according to schedule.

    Now Apple wants us to believe that they had to borrow some Mac OS X engineers to complete the iPhone project. This raises the question as to whether the iPhone project was actually hitting serious snags rather than just falling slightly behind schedule. Regardless, Apple had to recruit extra personnel to finish it on time.

    Would it really matter if the iPhone shipped in July, rather than June? Well, I suppose they'd lose sales because it would arrive a bit too late into the summer season, but there are other factors at work. Apple's partner, AT&T -- or the wireless provider formerly known as Cingular -- no doubt has a huge investment of its own in sales, marketing and developing the proper network infrastructure for the new gadget. There may also be a contractural obligation on the part of Apple to deliver the goods within a specific timeframe.

    So Apple was forced to make a decision, and the iPhone won.

    All right, I suppose that makes sense. Even if both the iPhone and Leopard products were troubled, Apple had to weigh its options. It's not as if they could hire developers and quality control experts off the streets and put them to work in a few days or weeks. They might get enough bodies to do the job that way, but those bodies would be untrained, and would make the situation even worse.

    So what does all this mean?

    Well, I don't think an awful lot in the scheme of things. All right, if all goes well, the iPhone will come out on time, and Apple will surely sell enough product to make its huge investment (whatever that might be) quite worthwhile. Yes, the iPhone's arrival might seem anticlimactic after all the hype, but there will be enough pent-up demand to compensate.

    As to Leopard, one of the dilemmas Apple is going to face is how to persuade you and me to upgrade. After all, Tiger works quite well, thank you. It's a reliable, relatively crash-free operating system that millions of Mac users run every single day without a second's thought.

    Looking at the promise of Leopard, I can't say an awful lot, because we just don't know. But not everything shown so far seems terribly appealing. I am not, for example, so enamored of Time Machine, since I regularly back up my files anyway, and the various solutions I've tried all work beautifully. Just the other day, for example, I wiped the hard drive of my 17-inch MacBook Pro and easily restored it from a cloned external device. It was all a matter of the time it took to transfer the files from source to target.

    There's also that multiple desktop feature, Spaces, which may appeal to some, but not to me. I use a program that simply hides all the applications except the one I'm using at the moment. There are several utilities that do it automatically, such as HideItControl. If I do need to see documents from two applications at the same time, I hold down the Shift key when switching (or whatever keystroke I choose). I've worked this way for years with different variations on this theme, and don't feel that I've lost any productivity.

    The new eye-candy for iChat and Mail may be entertaining and all that, and some of the rumor sites claim Apple is smoothing the Mac OS X interface, making it more consistent from application to application.

    Let's all issue a collective yawn!

    In the end, I plan to upgrade to Leopard and will probably place my order on the first day it's available. No, I'm not being a hypocrite. I'm sure once the full feature set is announced, I'll find things that I really can't live without, and I'm hopeful for even greater performance and reliability.

    But it really doesn't matter all that much that I have to wait until October for those hopes and dreams to be realized. And now I have to get back to work.



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    17 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Exaggerating the Impact of 10.5’s Delay”

    1. NIels Kobschätzki says:

      A developer told me once that the reason for upgrading should not always be Apple's apps but the things behind that will help the developers which will produce stuff which works only on 10.x
      The same discussion existed already in the time when 10.3 was upgraded to 10.4 (is Spotlight really worth the upgrade?). But it's in my opinion not the Apple-apps which made the switch necessary but the bunch of applications that require 10.4 (and the same will happen for 10.5 - TextMate 2.0 alone is for me enough reason to upgrade - nice that I have then TimeMachine, iChat DesktopSharing (that'll be a help for helping friends) and other stuff in there as well…)

    2. rwahrens says:

      For myself, I am waiting for Time Machine. There just haven't been any reliable (for me) apps to help me backup my data. The current Backup has failed me twice - I just image my drive onto an external drive now.

      Also, for me, the constant and consistent updating of the OS, the better looks, the easier usage, the faster response at each upgrade, all makes it worth spending the money.

      It isn't always a specific thing, but the entire experience is getting better! Each released upgrade is better, faster, easier to use. The additional functionality just adds gravy!

      Yes, I am disappointed at the delay. But as others have said, Tiger works very well for me now, and if there hadn't been that promise of a new release, I wouldn't have missed it!

    3. Ben says:

      Your article is very good, but the nagging question I have is that if Apple does decide that they need to take engineers off of OS X to help finish the iPhone, than will Apple in the future spend more time and money on their consumer electronics than their OS updates?

    4. Your article is very good, but the nagging question I have is that if Apple does decide that they need to take engineers off of OS X to help finish the iPhone, than will Apple in the future spend more time and money on their consumer electronics than their OS updates?

      Well, I gather they felt that it was more critical to deliver the iPhone on time than Leopard. Assuming that the iPhone does hit the ground running and is a reliable product from the get-go, their trade-off decision will be the right one.

      Until then, I don't think anyone is in a position to second guess, but that won't stop us, right? :)

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Niels Kobschätzki says:

      And maybe there are contractual penalties involved as well. After all I do not think that anyone outside of Apple and Cingular does know what the conditions of the contract are. But I'm quite sure that there are penalties if Apple shouldn't be able to deliver in time - that would be a big image loss for Cingular as well as for Apple (think about all the ppl who are ready for transferring from other companies to them as soon as the iPhone is available).

      Leopard in contrast is a thing where no other company is involved at all - therefore it isn't as time critical as the iPhone.

    6. MichaelT says:

      I just got thinking about this OS delay. And I'm remembering the delayed release of the Apple TV, and the promise of a 3GHz G5 PowerMac "by this time next year." And I'm reading rumors (iKnow, iKnow...) about a possible delay on the iPhone. No wonder Steve is so secretive with his product schedule. The ones above are products he promised at a specific time. Has he ever met a pre-announced release date?

    7. I just got thinking about this OS delay. And I’m remembering the delayed release of the Apple TV, and the promise of a 3GHz G5 PowerMac “by this time next year.” And I’m reading rumors (iKnow, iKnow…) about a possible delay on the iPhone. No wonder Steve is so secretive with his product schedule. The ones above are products he promised at a specific time. Has he ever met a pre-announced release date?

      Most of the time -- yes. Since Mac OS X debuted, Apple has met those dates quite religiously, except for this particular instance. Product announcements have been a little ragged, except for transitioning all Macs to Intel months earlier than promised.

      Peace,
      Gene

    8. MichaelT says:

      Yeah, it was kind of a rhetorical question, but you're right—Apple has been pretty reliable with its OS releases. I think that's what has thrown everybody off. We got used to the "release-a-year" schedule, and Leopard was the first of the new "release-when-we're ready" schedule and it's delayed. So naturally the first thing we should do is PANIC. Then we'll see how the news actually affects us. And when we see that it's really not the end of the world, clearer thoughts prevail.
      :)

    9. Yeah, it was kind of a rhetorical question, but you’re right—Apple has been pretty reliable with its OS releases. I think that’s what has thrown everybody off. We got used to the “release-a-year” schedule, and Leopard was the first of the new “release-when-we’re ready” schedule and it’s delayed. So naturally the first thing we should do is PANIC. Then we’ll see how the news actually affects us. And when we see that it’s really not the end of the world, clearer thoughts prevail. :)

      Just a point of clarification. Actually Tiger came about 18 months after Panther, and Apple announced around that time that they wouldn't be delivering Mac OS X upgrades as frequently.

      Considering how long Windows users await major operating system releases, and the fact that Mac OS X upgrades tend to have those infamous point-zero bugs of one sort or another, there's no sense rushing and getting something you won't be pleased with.

      Even when Leopard comes out, it may make sense to wait a little while and see how it goes, particularly if there are lots of new features that cause major changes in the underlying system. We only know part of the picture now.

      Peace,
      Gene

    10. Noddie says:

      Gene, I think you're slightly misunderstanding the nature of what's happened.

      Apple either didn't hire enough skilled people or didn't hire the right skilled people to complete the iPhone. The official plan from the start may even have been to borrow some of the OS X team to bootstrap the iPhone software. Either way, Apple will get over the problem, but it does speak to Apple being too cheap in software R&D spending, in that cutting-off-nose-to-spite-face way that Steve Jobs sometimes is. There's a tale about Steve cheaping out on the first plastic cases for the Apple II, and the disaster this almost caused. There have been many instances since.

      Yes, adding manpower for the sake of throwing bodies at something never helps, but there should have been a parallel team working on the iPhone software. We can only hope that Apple is working to rectify this situation.

    11. Gene, I think you’re slightly misunderstanding the nature of what’s happened.

      Apple either didn’t hire enough skilled people or didn’t hire the right skilled people to complete the iPhone. The official plan from the start may even have been to borrow some of the OS X team to bootstrap the iPhone software. Either way, Apple will get over the problem, but it does speak to Apple being too cheap in software R&D spending, in that cutting-off-nose-to-spite-face way that Steve Jobs sometimes is. There’s a tale about Steve cheaping out on the first plastic cases for the Apple II, and the disaster this almost caused. There have been many instances since.

      Yes, adding manpower for the sake of throwing bodies at something never helps, but there should have been a parallel team working on the iPhone soft

      Yes, no doubt Apple had a plan in place to accommodate these personnel needs. That seems reasonable.

      On the other hand, maybe a few unexpected problems occurred along the way that required more bodies to overcome. This is not something that can be addressed within a matter of a few weeks.

      In other words, there was a parallel team, but one not large enough.

      That's how it goes.

      Peace,
      Gene

    12. I find it hilarious, actually, that Apple is presumed to be sinless in estimating time to complete a project; thus, any misstep elicits hordes of hand-wringers, and a chorus of Chicken Littles preparing for the end of life as we know it. Can we get real for a moment? Software is hard to deliver on time; scheduling is an imperfect art; the amount of time and energy spent introducing the fever-swamp dwellers to reality is far out of proportion to the miniscule nature of this event. I don't worry about Apple. I do worry about the people who are so worried about a four-month delay and create all kinds of wild-eyed conspiracy and doomsday scenarios about it, as though Apple were staffed by superhuman beings who are not permitted to be human.

    13. Michael says:

      Paul Thurrott has cited this article as proof of "hypocrisy" among Mac users.

      He repeats the absurd little trope he has about Apple's not being interested in computers or OS X but in "consumer electronics", although that claim has been intellectually destroyed since he last aired it, since the iPhone is a computer and runs a form of OS X (as does the Apple TV).

      He tells us that Apple is "a spiteful bully" and that he "won't stoop to that level" - where "that level" seems to mean commenting on the delay to the OS, which he's just spent a whole column doing. Hilarious.

      But it does leave a bad taste in the mouth: I shouldn't really read such stuff.

      In other news, Microsoft lobbyists have succeeded in persuading Florida legislators to do as they wish:

      http://politics.slashdot.org/politics/07/04/17/1619252.shtml

    14. Peter says:

      "[...] except for transitioning all Macs to Intel months earlier than promised."

      Now, you see, I don't get this one. When Apple talked about the transition, they said that they would transition to Intel-based CPUs by the end of 2006. At the beginning of 2006, they announced the MacBook Pro--their first Intel machine. In August of 2006, Apple announced the Macintosh Pro--the last product to go Intel. So they completed it on schedule--before the end of 2006. When did this become "months earlier than promised"?

      Regarding the Leopard delay, from a Mac user's point-of-view, it isn't a big deal, agreed. Yes, I'll go get 10.5.0 from the Apple Store the day it's released. If it's June, great. If it's October, great. Doesn't really matter to me.

      From an investor's point-of-view, though, I'd be more concerned. First, following on the heels of the AppleTV delay, we now have to question Apple's ability to ship things when they say they will. AppleTV's late shipment affected numbers for that quarter. Leopard's late shipment--being moved to FY2008--will affect Apple's numbers for 2007. Those who purchased stock with those revenue numbers figured in may be wondering what happened.

      Also, there are a bunch of unanswered questions. Why was Leopard delayed? Because they needed the resources (engineering & QA) for the iPhone. Why did iPhone need these resources? Was there a problem with the iPhone's version of OS X? Or was there a problem with Leopard which delayed these resources transitioning to iPhone?

      Again, while as a Mac user, I don't really care. But if I had invested a million dollars in Apple, I would like to know what is causing these delays. Was it merely bad planning or was there a problem? What is going to be done to make certain that Apple's estimates are more accurate than they have been? If I'm investing my hard earned cash into this company, I figure it's a reasonable question to ask.

    15. Steve W says:

      Leopard is delayed. What are you going to do? Buy something else?

      The iPhone is delayed. What are you going to do? ....

      Meanwhile, I will continue to happily compute away using Panther. I'll upgrade my Mac OS X when I upgrade my Mac. Panther works!

      In it's announcement, Apple said that the iPhone had passed several tests.... Does that mean that it failed some as well?

    16. Leopard is delayed. What are you going to do? Buy something else?

      The iPhone is delayed. What are you going to do? ….

      Meanwhile, I will continue to happily compute away using Panther. I’ll upgrade my Mac OS X when I upgrade my Mac. Panther works!

      In it’s announcement, Apple said that the iPhone had passed several tests…. Does that mean that it failed some as well?

      Well, as far as those "tests" are concerned, it may just mean that they have to pass several as part of the certification process. Alas, we'll probably never know.

      Peace,
      Gene

    17. rwahrens says:

      Peter;

      When Steve promised the switch to Intel "by the end of 2006", that could have meant as late as the Christmas season. Most people assumed that he would release the Pro models around that time, not long before the January 2007 MacWorld Expo. So, yes, the fact that the last Intel model was released only halfway through the year really WAS months earlier than promised.

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