Apple's domino effect: How iOS 7 should kickstart launch season

Apple's domino effect: How iOS 7 should kickstart launch season

Summary: The company is closing in on its typical (and some promised) launch deadlines but remains quiet on announcing anything, giving developers and enterprises little time to prepare.

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All eyes are fixed on Cupertino to see what it has up its sleeve, yet there's still nothing to report.

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The Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, CA, where Apple typically holds its annual developer conference.
(Image: James Martin/CNET)

February and March could have been the time when Apple announced at least two major products for the desktop and mobile like it did last year. Instead, Samsung took to the stage with its Galaxy S4 launch, and everything else from Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, the BlackBerry Z10 release, and T-Mobile's contract killing plans — just to name a few — took over the news cycle.

Apple has instead had to put out a bunch of fires, not limited to its China warranty woes, an angry shareholder with a lawsuit to burn, and a spate of embarrassing security flaws for its customer accounts and device lock screens. And yet, it's only six months after a major management reshuffle that saw two executives ousted and one retiree brought back.

One might suggest, "No wonder there hasn't been a product announcement yet." It's a big company, and many things run in tandem. Apple remains deathly quiet on where it's heading next. No particular surprise there, but based on previous timings of announcements, releases, and launches, Apple may be cutting it fine for developers, businesses, and enterprises to prepare for the upcoming updates.

While many expect an imminent announcement of the next iteration of OS X and the next iPad, even the rumor mill has ground to a halt.

Deadlines, deadlines: Where typically, timing is everything

Apple has, at least in recent years, taken timing and scheduling fairly seriously. While its products and services would only be released when ready, past trends appear to dictate a certain schedule in which the market can expect a new iPad in the first half of the year and a new iPhone during the second half.

On February 16, 2012, Apple announced the next iteration of its desktop operating system with a cut-down name, simply OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, reserving the Mac brand for its hardware.

The company said at the time, ahead of its July release — just five months later, giving developers time to prepare for the bevy of new features included in the software — that it would switch to an annual release cycle, similar to that of iOS.

It's now April, and not a hint out of Apple on OS X 10.9, the expected numerical iteration of the next version of the desktop software. That said, it's not yet a year since its release — that would be July — but presumably, the delay means that it's either not ready for developers, or it doesn't include as many new APIs, and therefore Apple doesn't need to give software writers as much time as it did with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. After all, it was announced only seven months after OS X 10.7 Lion was released to the public, which also tied with Apple's confirmed annual release schedule in July 2011.

For the iPad, it's a slightly different story. Apple releases its latest iteration of the iPad between March and April, and hasn't deviated in the past three years. But there's a catch. Last November, it threw a spanner in the launch cycle by churning out a minor iteration of the full-sized iPad, and also dishing out the iPad mini.

The future of the iPad (and iPhone) software could rest at the very heart of where OS X takes its next step into the unification of the two on its mobile and desktop platforms.

Mac's iOS-ification: Chicken or egg?

With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple increasingly added iOS features to the desktop in the form of a notification center and what were, for a time, mobile-only apps. By integrating some of the best features of iOS to the Mac, Apple has begun to unify the two to work closer together. It creates not only a platform and purpose for iCloud for device and content synchronicity, but also a wider ecosystem for Apple users.

The upcoming release of OS X 10.9 rests on how far iOS has progressed during that time. Exactly what comes first boils down to which comes first: The chicken or the egg. Or, rather, iOS 7 or OS X 10.9.

But there's a twist to the tale. According to Apple inside pitcher John Gruber, iOS 7 is "running behind", resulting in OS X 10.9 engineers being pulled from the desktop development to focus on the more lucrative next iteration of the mobile platform that supplies the iPhone.

Because major iOS versions are announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), it suggests that iOS 7 may be being prepared for announcement in June, when the global meet-up of Apple developers occurs. This is not to say that iOS 7 will be launched in June, as that will likely come later in the year to fall in line with the need for developers to hook their apps into the new software. It also falls within the expected third-quarter release date timeframe of the next iPhone.

Plus, if iOS 7's development is slower than expected, it gives Apple a little more breathing space to include the more significant iOS-ported features into OS X 10.9 before July — the deadline the company must meet in order to fulfill its promise of an annual desktop software release.

This suggests that iOS 7 will come first and OS X 10.9 later — by weeks, or minutes perhaps, even at the same launch event.

Gruber also pointed to the development of a new "system-wide [user interface] overhaul", which comes only a few weeks after BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins alluded to iOS' outdated and stale user interface.

Because the next iPhone is expected to sport a visually "similar size and shape" to the iPhone 5, according to reports, it would therefore make sense that the "killer" feature would be a software update that overlooks any need to modify the physical design of the device.

WWDC 2013 approaches: Launch season on deck?

It's becoming increasingly difficult to determine when Apple will either say something or do something, by announcing a product or launching it. Plus, with a massive management reshuffle just a few months ago, there's no telling how far behind the company is on its internal schedule.

While the timing for a new iPhone looks unlikely for June, Apple could reveal iOS 7 instead, but launch it later in the year. This would fall in similar fashion to what it did with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion by leaving a hearty gap between its February announcement and July launch.

iOS 7 is likely to be announced at WWDC 2013 in June, while the next minor incremental update to the iPhone will launch well before the December holiday season in September or October with the latest iOS 7 software installed. This gives mobile developers — and there are a lot more of them than for the Mac — enough time to update their apps and create new ones with the expected wide range of new software hooks and features.

With all eyes pointing to a WWDC 2013 launch of iOS 7, it gives Apple an opportunity to then lay out OS X 10.9 at the same time without spoiling its new features, with the Mac software being a minor update without many new features for developers to play with. This would give them around a month before the July launch deadline to take advantage of the new features.

But this month could still see an iPad announcement, and it shouldn't be ruled out completely. That said, it doesn't make much sense, seeing as the November announcement of the fourth-generation iPad was only a minor update to a tablet that can only be updated so much.

It would make more sense, seeing as there have been practically no rumors in the run-up to an expected April or May event around the iPad, to suggest that any new Apple tablet will arrive later in the year, likely following the release of iOS 7. If sales are slowing down as reports would have us believe, a launch in time for the December holiday season could see a much-needed boost to the iPad division's profits.

It makes no sense for Apple to announce anything until iOS 7 is ready, and everything else seems to hinge on the announcement and launch of its next-generation mobile platform. iOS 7 features will likely feed into OS X 10.9, albeit incrementally, because the next iPhone will likely remain physically the same. Meanwhile, the iPad and iPad mini could be shown off to the world this month or next, but with reports of cutbacks in supply and demand reaching its saturation point, it seems increasingly unlikely.

One thing's for certain: WWDC 2013 in June holds the key to a lot of moving parts at Apple. That's when we can start to expect a flurry of news from the maker of shiny rectangles.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Smartphones, Tablets

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31 comments
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  • Apple is old news...

    "It makes no sense for Apple to announce anything until iOS 7 is ready, and everything else seems to hinge around the announcement and launch of its next-generation mobile platform"

    - Apple hasn't announced anything yet and how do you claim its a 'next-generation' mobile platform?

    Apple has no futuristic vision...
    Owllll1net
    • Fud and bull as usual

      I'm sure your friends'll be here soon enough to cross the 'T's and dot the 'I's on the usual howling at the wind.

      But seriously that had to be the longest article I ever read that says "we don't know anything"

      Apple could release news tomorrow... Or in 6 months... Or a year. Then it'll be news. Until they announce something there really is nothing to talk about. As for mountain liob and ios 6... They were both just minor updates to their predecessors; unless they are planning a big change, I wouldn't get too excited. Ipad mini retina, iphone 5s, ios 7 and mac os 10.9 cheetah or whatever... It's all a bit predicatable and boring at the moment.

      It says a lot that the fact that they aren't sticking to their normal release schedule is the biggest apple goss atm, however the old saying "no news is good news" not so much here
      MarknWill
      • All this non-news could have been said in one paragraph

        If you want a long article, just rephrase the same content over and over again. This is one of the worst cases of this being done that I've ever read. I'm kicking myself that I was suckered into reading the whole thing.
        dachba
    • What would you suggest that Apple do?

      Perhaps they should make a new OS like Windows RT. Oh, hang-on they did that and it has been a roaring success . . . unlike Windows RT.

      Perhaps they should make a new phone OS, like Windows Phone. Oh, hang-on again, they did that, too, and it has also been a roaring success . . . unlike Windows Phone and Kin.

      Should Apple create a music player, like Zune? Oops, that did that, too, and it was an amazing success . . . unlike Zune.

      Maybe Apple should make a tablet device like the Surface. Yep, that did that, too, and it has been a raging success . . . unlike Surface.

      You really are a mindless troll . . . The last thing that anyone wants is Apple to be "futuristic" like MS.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
      • And yet AppleTV, even Macs are what, ragging sucesses?

        Since you're basing your argument on sales data, and not actual product quality?

        Windows Phone 8 is actually a great phone OS, with high marks for stability and speed.
        (iPhone 5 came in 5th in overall customer satisfaction, FYI)

        Zune hardware is every bit as good, if not better then iPod, according to surveys and reviews. (read some, you can search online)

        Surface? I seen people do stuff with the Surface pro you can't do on an iPad, so that says something there.

        Oh, and word on the Street is that should Apple not come out with something new and "revolutionary" soon, Tim Cook will be "asked to leave", so Owllll1net has a point.
        William Farrel
        • @Will

          I could take you to task, but that is not what I want to do. I do agree with you that sales are not always a complete indicator of inherent quality.

          Owllll1net is nothing but an annoying troll. Every post is a pro-MS, anti-everythingelse rant. After a while, it does get a little annoying. And when you read something as stupid as, "Apple has no futuristic vision", well . . .
          Wakemewhentrollsgone
          • Still, Apple does have to pull out something really exciting

            or Tim Cook's job may be short lived.

            Some are saying that in hindsight, John Ive may have been the better canidate for CEO, as Cook really has just been doing incrimental upgrades and features to ward off stagnation, as opposed to pushing innovation.
            William Farrel
          • As long as sales growth

            is in the double-digits and profits remain high, Cook's job is safe.
            baggins_z
          • Only if it raises the stock price, baggins_z

            What good are profits if it doesn't make the investors a profit?

            They are, after all, Tim Cook's bosses.
            William Farrel
          • Solo efforts

            Steve Jobs never worked in isolation, he worked with a team of engineers.

            Tim Cook does not work in isolation, he works with a team of engineers.

            Jobs was an ideas and marketing man, Cook is not, but he has the benefit of a fantastic team and as long as sales and profits are astronomical, Cook is safe.
            sip01
          • And you REALLY believe that?

            Quote: "Still, Apple does have to pull out something really exciting
            or Tim Cook's job may be short lived."
            lloyd7
      • You may or may not be a mindless troll

        but you ARE mindless. A fanboi or an employee of apple's PR arm.
        tboneJoey
    • Tim Cook is all talk

      iOS 6 was suppose to be amazing. It was dull.
      Sean Foley
  • Did you say anything?

    Apple can, and will, announce the new OS 10.9 and IOS 7 when they are ready. They don't have to meet schedules, but rather to create new ideas and make sure they work.

    Who cares if you have to write a blog?
    jorjitop
  • Apple is Dead

    I'm convinved that Apple is on a downward spiral. People forget the Jobs was a design guy first and foremost, and a design guy with massive self belief, and masses of charisma and leadership. Unlike other companies (MS, IBM, HP, etc) in which products and features are driven by committee's and marketing divisions, where mid-level managers stomp innovation in the face of winning political battles, Apple USED to have a guy at the top that didn't give a shit for any of that, and cared only about the product.
    Now that he's gone, Apple is just like the rest of the herd, and the days of massively innovative products being released are over.
    Sorry Apple fans, but it's true. IOS is old and tired. The iPhones are *yawn*. OSX is still pretty but.. well.. And yes I have an iPhone, I own an iMac and an AppleTV, but i'm wondering what's next, and I don't think it's coming from Cuppertino.
    gr1f
    • I partly agree

      Apple was know for its great innovation, which I agree seems to be somewhat lacking at the moment. I think that it stems from having a bean-counter at the top instead of a genuine innovator. Jobs was a huge loss to Apple; perhaps, an irreplaceable loss.
      Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • I don't agree with your title.

      Apple is far from dead. They're just coasting along on existing products. That makes them vulnerable, not dead.

      However, I do agree somewhat with what you said about Jobs vs. Cook. Cook was always the business guy, while Jobs embodied the vision and inspiration for the company. Playing to his strengths, Cook's focus seems to be on keeping the business running smoothly and predictably, rather than creating sleek, futuristic products. As a result, Apple's design innovation has slowed dramatically.

      Apple is an industrial design company. They generally don't innovate technology. They innovate in in the usability and design aesthetic of existing technology. They design sleek things people enjoy using. That design focus has been slipping ever since Jobs got sick.

      How can they return to the forefront of design? They need to do two things to get the magic back. The first, is to give Sir Jonathon Ive more control over the future direction of all products. He's the future-thinking man behind the curtain. He was Jobs' "right brain." He and Jobs spent a lot of time together working out the future direction for technology design. The second thing Apple needs to do is to get a spokesperson with a more exciting, room-filling personality. They need a charismatic salesman to show the world the true wonder of whatever devices Sir Ive creates.

      I own at least one of every Apple product. In the case of iOS devices I own 6. Yet, I'm no cultist. I vastly prefer Windows 7 to OS X. I only use OS X for creating music. I don't buy into the "Apple is a divine entity" mentality. If something comes along which will actually let me get more done in the same amount of time, or done more simply, or with less effort, I'll be all over it. I'm not married to any tool I own. So far, I haven't seen anything demonstrably better from anyone. I've just seen "different." I don't need different for the sake of different.
      BillDem
      • Apple is a hardware company

        that happens to make a fine operating system for their Macs. There are some jobs however that Windows has better programs for. The nice thing about Macs is that they can run both operating systems or even Linux. A MacBook Pro will run Windows as well or better than anybody else's hardware.They also make smaller computers that specialize in making phone calls and are touch friendly.
        arminw
        • macbooks do not run windows better than a windows laptop

          this is hyperbole made popular by ignorant journalists like Walt Mosberg.
          for a start, the keyboard is missing a few important keys like a proper delete, home, end, page up page down. If you edit text a lot, and use shift to extend selection in conjunction with these keys, the macbook keyboard becomes a major hindrance.
          warboat
    • Corporations want profit above all else

      So what do the competitors of Apple have? Why yes, they have lots of features and some cool technology but deep down they don't really care about that. What everybody else doesn't have and wants, is the insane profits that Apple has been making. Show me a corporation that is not primarily interested in profit.
      arminw