Does iPhone OS 3.0 Indicate No Imminent Hardware Refresh?

Looking back at the lifecycle of iPhone software releases, it’s easy to identify Apple’s set objectives at the time. The initial release, which went hand in hand with the first iPhone hardware, was out there to quickly woo the market and gain a significant footing in an already crowded marketplace. It was aimed at early adopters, who cared about the flashy interface, and the features not found on other phones. The original iPhone was as much a status symbol as it was a communication device.

The second version of the software, which was released along with the iPhone 3g hardware, walked a different path. While the introduction of the App Store was undeniably a huge step, many of the software changes within the OS were focused on stability and reliability. The aim was to use the new hardware to win over new customers and new software to appease the early adopters. Those who had put up with the phones idiosyncrasies had some new, more stable software to look forward to. Those who were unconvinced by the feature set had new hardware to look forward to.

Logically extending this idea, version 3.0 of the iPhone OS seems designed to win over new users. Particularly, Apple has addressed some of the shortcomings that other smart phone users sneered at (e.g. Copy and Paste) whilst adding value with new features, improving the usability of existing features and enabling developers to create more powerful applications by improving the APIs.

Whilst it might be unfair to say that the iPhone OS version 2.0 wasn’t focused on gaining new customers, it certainly didn’t come across as the primary goal. Rather, the goal was to support the new hardware and introduce applications. Supporting new hardware, regardless of how similar it is to the hardware it’s replacing, takes time. Not only is there the initial assessment of hardware and development, but the testing has to be thorough and well rounded. To be frank, it’s difficult, even for a company with the Apple’s resources, to release new software coupled with new hardware whilst also introducing new features. Apart from anything else, the risk involved grows exponentially.

Similarly, making major changes to the underlying software makes supporting new hardware difficult. In essence, to reduce risk you wouldn’t want to make major changes to both the software and the hardware in one release. It’s also important to note that while there are major changes to the user accessible functions of the phone, there are also over 1000 new APIs. I would classify iPhone OS version 3.0 as a major software release, and in my book that makes new hardware unlikely this summer.

What do you think? Does the complexity of the new software preclude a new hardware release?