Updated — Apple, iPhone and Leopard Delays

Guess what? People apparently just rediscovered that writing software is hard, and it’s even harder on embedded devices like Apple’s upcoming iPhone. Nevertheless, the delay in the schedule for Apple’s Leopard, announced today, is troubling on a number of fronts.

First, Leopard’s delay pushes out $45-70 million in quarterly upgrade revenues, but could also push out the release of Apple’s next generation of laptops, which most people figured were tied to the Leopard ship. While Wall Street didn’t talk about this immediately after the news today, it could become a material problem.

Second, moving people at this late date from Leopard to iPhone doesn’t augur well for the status of iPhone’s software. You don’t put on a crash completion program on a soon-to-ship software product (iPhone) unless you are really, really desperate. After all, adding more people to a late software project almost always makes it later.

Finally, Apple’s release today is strange. It feels rushed, as if something changed and the company was worried the news was about to leak. We have a “statement” on the company’s Hot News subsite, but nothing yet in the press releases. Puzzling.

More broadly, however, does this make the outlook cloudier for the iPhone? While some critics will salivate at the news, it really isn’t that material overall for iPhone. Apple’s move into phones and mobility is the right one, even if there are some pains at the front end. This is the first product in what will almost certainly be a rapid-fire succession of iPhones, and anyone who thought Apple, or anyone, could get it right the first time and on time hasn’t been around the software industry very long.

[Update] My friend Herb Greenberg has a typically entertaining and savage take, calling the Apple release “spin”, and echoing most of my above points. Where Herb and I differ, I think, is that my view is this is still early days and problems were predictable, and iPhone still has a great shot; Herb feels otherwise.

Related posts:

  1. Updated: Cisco Sues Apple Over iPhone
  2. Apple Nutters and the iPhone
  3. More Microsoft Delays?
  4. The iTrouble with iSuppli’s iPhone iTeardown iEstimate
  5. More Delays for Windows Vista

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this take. My first instinct too was that Apple realized that writing software for mobile devices is non-trivial. A major concern of mine is how much battery life can we expect, especially considering the poor battery life on the N95. Of course the N95 is stacked, but Nokia’s been in the game for years.
    The sentiment to wait for version 2 should ring loud and clear.

  2. Michael J. says:

    My take was that Apple *had previously* moved Leopard engineers to the iPhone, the iPhone is now done, and now they’re back on Leopard, w/o enough time to finish. Quote: “We had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources…”
    Depends on “had” – do we choose present or past tense?
    Anyone putting off a $2.5K laptop for a $130 OS cost simply desires to carp. Get real.

  3. Rakesh says:

    Maybe what’s really going on is that there was some problem with Leopard development and that the story about switching Leopard engineers over to the iPhone is a smokescreen for that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Michael, “had” is indeed past tense. But my post was also written in past tense. Regardless of when it happened, the fact is Apple needed to borrow resources for it’s iPhone.

  5. Joseph E. Davis says:

    My take: Leopard was taking too long and they needed an excuse, so they blamed the IPhone. I’ve seen this so many times. The PR person wants to come up with something “positive” so they latch on to whatever the hot product is.

  6. worth says:

    Herb is great. All he does is some basic research and analysis, which inevitably leads to slamming a company against the cold, hard pavement of reality, and then gets a crapstorm of email from people complaining about him unfairly attacking their precious long positions. Yet he remains forever undaunted! He doesn’t cause company problems, he just accurately reports them, which is a treasonous act as far as most individual investors are concerned.

  7. tf says:

    “But my post was also written in past tense. Regardless of when it happened, the fact is Apple needed to borrow resources for it’s iPhone.”
    So? Any and all borrowing is inherently bad? They didn’t have an iPhone team before it existed. Clearly a new project involves transfers, new hires, and borrowing, no?
    “Second, moving people at this late date from Leopard to iPhone doesn’t augur well for the status of iPhone’s software.”
    This doesn’t sound like the past or that your statement holds regardless of the date. Would January be late for QA engineers/testing? Wouldn’t a properly scheduled and staffed project involve testing up to the last minute? Is it so inappropriate to be testing around this timeframe for 2 projects due in June?
    Apple has less than 18,000 employees. Dell has more than 65,000; Microsoft has 71,000; Oracle has more than 56,000; and, say, Palm even has over 6,000.
    I am disappointed and critical of this occurance, but your spin seems a bit extreme. (Acting as if Apple doesn’t know that programming takes time?) Apple is normally quite nimble and schedules well.

  8. anona says:

    “While some critics will salivate at the news…”
    Yeah, see here, for example, frothing at the mouth:
    http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2007/04/12/apple_iphone_an.html

  9. Jon H says:

    “You don’t put on a crash completion program on a soon-to-ship software product (iPhone) unless you are really, really desperate.”
    If they moved the people 4-6 months ago, that’d be 6-8 months before shipment, which isn’t exactly a ‘crash’ program.
    It seems likely that they figured they’d move resources to the iPhone, and then be able to move them back to the OS early enough to finish Leopard in time, but they needed them on the iPhone longer than expected, so Leopard’s completion is pushed out.
    Your point would be better substantiated if the iPhone were being slipped, or if both were.
    Or if, you know, Apple hadn’t demonstrated quite a good skill at shipping products.

  10. Martin says:

    I think it will be a problem for apple, because a lot of people wait for the “new iPhone” Version 2.0 in October with the leopard software…

  11. spaceage says:

    This piece is really reaching for a lot of reasons…
    “could also push out the release of Apple’s next generation of laptops”–if you’ve been following Apple for a while, you know this never happens. OS releases are completely detached from hardware releases–its called encapsulation in sw development and has been commonplace for years. Apple is a little bit smarter after all these years than to link a major product line like the MacBooks to a major OS release–they always leave themselves the flexibility of shipping either current gen or next gen OS releases with their new hardware. Apple can kick out a hardware update anytime with relatively minor changes to the existing OS (10.4) if they want. They’ve done things this way for about two decades now.
    “moving people at this late date from Leopard to iPhone doesn’t augur well for the status of iPhone’s software” and “It feels rushed, as if something changed and the company was worried the news was about to leak”–again, you don’t honestly think that Apple releases relevant and accurate information about its internal machinations in a press release this sophomoric, do you? C’mon, that would be incredibly naive. Obviously, something has gone amiss internally with their dates, but I seriously doubt that anything in this “release” sheds any real light on the issue(s).
    Here’s a more likely explanation: Apple is obviously going to include much tighter integration with Windows, and specifically, Vista, in Leopard. They just haven’t announced it yet because (a) they want to save the “bang” for introduction, and (b) they don’t want to screw the terrific guys making Parallels prematurely. Since Vista itself was late, and probably a total nightmare to work with (witness the issues Apple had with iTunes on Vista), this has caused problems with Leopard. There is one much more likely explanation, for example…
    Its disappointing after the outstanding performance of Apple over the past 5 years that media pundits still cast the company in a “once failing Apple Computer” light. A 4 month slip on a major software release does happen from time to time at any company. It doesn’t signal some apocalyptic event hovering around the corner. Those types of theories make for good story lines, but in reality they are mainly BS…

  12. Martin says:

    Do somebody knows, if european people also can order iphone in usa by AT&T. Or is the iphone Version “1.0″ only for amerikanish people? Can i use the iPhone in europe also? bye