Thursday, April 19, 2007

iPhone more important than upgrades

I guess being busy last week with my day job, I missed the big Apple announcement — the one that they gave everyone but didn’t put on their website. Apple is pulling all development resources from OS X 10.5 (“Leopard”) to push the iPhone out the door, delaying 10.5 from June to October.

Tom Yager of has the best argument in support of the decision, which presumes that existing users don’t care all that much about getting a 64-bit operating system with minor feature enhancements. On the other hand, delaying Leopard either means delaying new Macs (such as the rumored MacBook Pro, iMac or new subnotebook) or means doing incremental update releases of 10.4.x to support the new model(s). As an Apple ISV, I remember how Apple used to do this all the time in the early 1990s, obviously wasting a lot of R&D, QA and support resources to handle these incremental releases rather than matching the new product intro to the existing OS schedule.

Before the Leopard slip date announcement, Citigroup was very bullish on iPhone sales while now American Technology is quite bearish. They can’t both be right, so it will be interesting to see who ends up with egg on his face. (Interestingly, the same American Technology analyst who’s bearish on the iPhone also is predicting the subnotebook, so he could either hit two home runs or two strikeouts).

One thing I didn’t see remarked is what this says about OS X on the iPhone. Yes everyone says the iPhone runs a “slimmed-down version of OS X” — hopefully WWDC in June will reveal what this means. But, given the mythical man-month, the idea that engineer-hours are fungible enough between OS X and the iPhone to do some good suggests that the development environment, kernel and many of the UI and app layers are pretty similar.

As long as this is my first iPhone posting in more than a month, I might as well mention that I’m now an official academic “expert” on the iPhone. One paper (co-authored with Mike Mace) has been accepted at the DRUID Summer Conference in June, and I’ll also be doing a dry run a couple of universities before then. One of us will also be presenting a second paper at the LA Global Mobility Roundtable.

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