5 Half truths about the Leopard delay

I’m sure you’ve all heard that the next version of OSX, 10.5 or Leopard to give it its feline name, has been delayed past the previously announced summer release. Theres been a bit of a backlash in some circles and some quiet acceptance in others. Unfortunately, in amongst all the usual blog chitter-chatter there are some oversights, misunderstandings and half truths, so in a twist to our “5 things” feature, I’ll look at 5 half-truths surrounding the Leopard delay.

  1. Apple will lose money because of this delay – I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t going to happen. The main selling point for AppleOSX Leopard computing hardware is still the holiday season, and I will be hugely surprised if they miss this obvious target. There is the academic season, with students buying new equipment for college/university, but this dwarfed by the sales around the holiday season. Also, I’m sure that by the time the academic season comes round one of two things will have happened, either Apple will have dropped their prices or they will have announced that people who buy new machines will get a free Leopard upgrade. On the other side of the coin, the iPhone is going to be a huge money spinner for Apple and will no doubt eclipse OSX and its computing hardware in terms of revenue.
  2. Leopard will be better because of the delay – This is a common sentiment I’ve seen around the net. The general consensus is that people are happy to wait a few extra months to get an OS that is better by a few months of development. Looking at the reason for the delay, having to move engineers onto the iPhone, I can’t see the basis for this argument. The simple fact is that development on Leopard is effectively on hold. Yes, there may very well be engineers still working on Leopard but this will be a percentage of the full development team and from the tone of the announcement, the engineers that have been moved onto the iPhone project have been selected for a reason. This reason is no doubt the fact that they are the most talented and/or the most experienced. I’m not saying the engineers who are currently working on Leopard are incompetent or not up to the task, its just that they are down on numbers. Its simple maths. The reason the most experiences engineers are on iPhone? Well it was such a big and well kept secret, Jobs would only use those that he trusts the most, that’s not going to be the new starters.
  3. Apple should be able to throw engineers at Leopard – This is an argument that I’ve seen across forums mostly, it goes that Apple must be in a pretty tight position if they don’t have enough engineers to keep two projects running at the same time. See above. Not all engineers are born equal, especially when we’re talking about OS engineers, one of te most demanding areas. And remember, the iPhone is running a cut down version of OSX, so only those with intimate knowledge of the architecture would be able to successfully port it to such a different architecture. Don’t forget that the AppleTV has also recently come out, with another slightly different version of OSX running on it. Even in a company of Apple’s size, three concurrent projects all of which requiring significant OS knowledge is going to be a drain.
  4. The iPhone will integrate better with OSX thanks to the delay – Another half truth. From the looks of the keynote, and the ease with which iTunes syncs with other devices, the hard work has already been done.
  5. The secret features aren’t ready – Quite possibly the funniest suggestion I’ve seen for the delay. The theory goes that the top secret Leopard features that Steve Jobs has promised to beat down Vista aren’t done yet. And worse, they haven’t been designed yet. This simply doesn’t follow Steve Job’s MO for past operations. He plans meticulously, anyone who saw his cue cards for the MacWorld keynote knows this. The features that will blow vista out of the water have been planned for months and will no doubt be partially working on internal builds.

I have my own opinion on the delay, personally, while I like Apple’s consumer products like the iPod, I still feel like it should be concentrating on making headways in its key market, the computing sector. It was always the case that these diversions, like the iPod, the Newton, iTunes etc., were tools to sell more computers, it’s looking increasingly like the tables have turned.