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.