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  • iTunes 8.2: Let the Torture Begin

    June 2nd, 2009

    So, without any fanfare, Apple released an 8.2 update to iTunes Monday afternoon. For the most part, the list of changes is typically opaque, about “accessibility improvements and bug fixes.” However, one item is curious, that the update “now supports iPhone or iPod touch with the iPhone 3.0 Software Update.”

    Now I don’t know about you, but I expected the next version of iPhone software would accompany the release of new iPhone hardware, the so-called third generation models. With an expected announcement about the new products at next week’s WWDC, they would probably go on sale a few weeks later.

    Certainly, this whole scenario seems sensible enough. Apple and its dealers are busy moving as many of the existing models out the door as possible, to pave the way for the new inventories. Basically the iPhone 3G would be worth little when its successor appears, assuming major changes arrive, although a blowout sale might attract buyers on a budget.

    As most of you recall, Apple last year went a little too far in getting several new products and services out the door. The iPhone firmware update, the 3G models, and the launch of the service formerly known as .Mac. The entire collection brought Apple’s massive server farms to their knees, and you just know they don’t want to repeat that awful experience this year, particularly in light of the renewed competition from Microsoft and other companies.

    Worse, the initial iPhone 2.0 software update appeared half-baked, and it required several revisions to straighten things out. That surely didn’t sit too well with early adopters, particularly when they encountered frequent disconnects.

    Before you remind me that Apple is receiving tax incentives to locate a one billion dollar center in North Carolina, let me remind you that construction of that place wouldn’t be finished for a year or two, even if it was declared shovel ready tomorrow. So that’s not a factor; that facility is designed to handle expected future capacity.

    Now some are suggesting the new version of iTunes came out early strictly to give tens of thousands of iPhone developers an opportunity to give the new software some rigorous testing before the final release, but does that make sense?

    Consider that Apple could just as well supply developers with iTunes 8.2 for their internal testing along with their copies of the iPhone 3.0 betas. Why make the software generally available, when only a small number of people might require it? That is unless the new software is just about finished and it’s poised for fast release.

    Even more fascinating is a rumor, unconfirmed of course, that Apple has notified developers it has completed testing of the push notification feature, an important component of the new iPhone software.

    So think about what might occur next week, near the conclusion of Monday’s WWDC keynote. It would happen thusly: Philip Schiller or another Apple executive demonstrates the new software, focusing on the major new features, such as cut, copy and paste. Maybe there will be a few choice tidbits that were previously not mentioned. Regardless, he would then state that the firmware is available for immediate download.

    Assuming that the next generation iPhone, which will no doubt also be demonstrated, will be released in mid-July, that will allow Apple to allow customers to have at it and afford sufficient time to rush a maintenance update or two in case it is required. I realize that you probably don’t want to be placed in a position where you’re going to be expected to beta test software when all you want is something that works.

    From a practical standpoint, you’d also expect that the major impact to Apple’s servers would be during the first week when most of the downloads are apt to occur. That way, when people line up around the block to get their new iPhones a few weeks later, the pain of lengthy ordering procedures and delayed activation will be relatively infrequent. Or at least, that’s what I would expect in such a situation.

    These predictions may be way out in left field, but a healthy dose of logic makes it seem, to me at least, to be perfectly sensible. That, however, all depends on the condition of the new iPhone software. Although developers have reportedly received several updates already, none appear to bear the label “Final Candidate” or “Release Candidate,” which are common terms for software that’s in the final stages of development.

    That, however, doesn’t mean all that much, since Apple doesn’t always do what people want or expect.

    But why else release iTunes 8.2 now, unless there’s something in those “accessibility improvements and bug fixes” that might be far more substantial.

    As of the time I’m writing this article, though, iTunes still tells me that my iPhone 3G software “is the current version.” But I’ll be checking again tomorrow if for no reason than to satisfy my curiousity. No, gentle reader, it will not be done to vindicate my predictions.



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