Apple's Leopard delay: Parsing spin, free passes and reality

Apple's Leopard delay: Parsing spin, free passes and reality

Summary: When Apple's statement announcing the Leopard delay hit something just didn't seem quite right. The release was terse and barely formatted.

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When Apple's statement announcing the Leopard delay hit something just didn't seem quite right. The release was terse and barely formatted. And it didn't take long for the spin police to call BS on Apple's assertion that the Leopard delay was pegged to the iPhone.

The thinking in some quarters--Apple took a lemon of an event (the Leopard delay) and made lemonade by talking up the iPhone's prospects and June launch (see Techmeme discussion).

Two thoughts:

Put a three month delay in perspective. Leopard isn't an earth-shattering OS. We're not talking the jump from Mac OS 9 to OS X or anything. There may be a material financial impact, but it pales compared to an iPhone delay.

There is an element of spin going on, but Wall Street and the media will give Apple the benefit of the doubt. Did Apple spin its statement and rush it out the door as Paul Kedrosky notes? Sure. Does it matter to anyone aside from a few bloggers. No. Apple will always be given a free pass due to the Steve Jobs' marketing halo effect. That's just the way it is.

As ZDNet talkbackers quickly noted Apple's delay will be forgiven. Why? Because it's Apple.

Judging from the early analyst reaction that talkbacker was dead on.

To wit:

JMP Securities analyst Ingrid Ebeling said Mac sales are likely to pause because of the Leopard delay "as consumers wait for the computers to come out of the box with Leopard as opposed to buying a Mac now and paying an additional fee (~$150) for an upgrade." She cut her fiscal 2007 revenue estimate from $24.4 billion to $24.1 billion (Apple's fiscal year ends Sept. 30). But that revenue just shifts to fiscal 2008 as Ebeling upped her revenue estimate to $30 billion from $29.6 billion. Earnings estimates shifted by a few cents.

"Delay in Leopard is disappointing but does not impact demand over the long term. Apple cited the software engineering resources required for the iPhone as the primary reason for the delay, but we believe that development might have been delayed due to more time needed to iron out some of the kinks," she said. "The current version of the operating system, Tiger, is already considered steps ahead of Vista, and we have seen only positive traction in market share gain with Apple."

Prudential analyst Jesse Tortola said "the silver lining in the announcement was that its much-anticipated iPhone is on schedule to ship in late June." Tortola's take was pretty common among analysts. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster noted a "PR impact," but nothing that would indicate longer-term worries. The message: iPhone matters a lot more than the Mac OS.

Bloggers, however, aren't so willing to give Apple a free pass.

Venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky said "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."

Actually, iPhone software may not be the worry. Leopard sounds downright buggy--in fact Apple Insider reported the latest Leopard build got worse.

But if you take Apple at its word--that the Leopard's QA team went to iPhone--then maybe the mobile software will be alright.

As with all things the reality is probably somewhere between the mainstream media and Wall Street free pass and a few conspiracy theorists.

Topics: Apple, iPhone, Operating Systems, Smartphones, Software

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Talkback

20 comments
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  • taking one for the team

    "But if you take Apple at its word?that
    the Leopard's QA team went to iPhone?
    then maybe the mobile software will be
    alright."

    I see no reason not to take Apple at its
    word here. The iPhone, for all intents
    and purposes, is a handheld Macintosh
    running a full (albeit optimized) version
    of OS X Leopard. If Apple needs all
    hands on deck to finish work on the
    iPhone ? which is entirely feasible,
    given its complexity and importance to
    the future of Apple ? the Leopard
    development team is the most likely
    and capable source for that kind of
    help.

    Given the choice between delaying
    Leopard or delaying the launch of the
    iPhone, it's a no-brainer that Leopard
    should take the hit. As much as Mac
    users may want the new OS, we've
    already got a system that beats Vista
    by a country mile. Waiting a few extra
    months for some necessary fit and
    finish is a minor inconvenience at
    worst. Apple has earned the benefit of
    the doubt from its users because this
    kind of delay is the rare exception
    rather than the rule.
    buddhistMonkey
    • Details please.

      <i>we've
      already got a system that beats Vista
      by a country mile.</i><br><br>
      Please back up this idiotic remark with hard facts. Show where it's better. Bug-wise, we know that OS X just got a 45 bug patch...WOW....and how many has Vista had in the same timeframe? a couple. <br>
      Please define better. The hardware has proven itself second rate on the intel platform. Sub standard manufacturing processes (witnessed by their overseas facilities using old hardware with unpatched software used for critical steps, then blaming it on Microsoft. Like you would expect from a cry baby like Jobs). <br>
      Not thanks, I'll pass on the "crackbook" and get real hardware for my Vista machine. <br>
      Besides, the marquee additions to Leopard are microsoft innovations that have been around for years. <br>
      Now don't cry about your hardware and OS being so horrible.
      xuniL_z
      • ahh... but....

        MS has proven and said themselves that they do not patch holes until the public knows about them. In this last patch that Apple did, they patch holes that they found themselves that were not known by the public.
        Stuka
    • And the Apologies start.

      I laugh at the sudden reference to Vista from some of the hard core Apple users. Is this in effect an admission that Vista IS a worry to them for whatever reason (The [Zealots] doth protest too much, methinks)

      Go figure. They pay Apple for their products, then turn around and apologize for them. Almost as bad as paying 50.00 to Hilfiger to walk around and advertise for him.
      John Zern
      • Apologies

        Windows zealots, such as yourself, have been aplogists for MS for years. Almost as
        bad as six bifferent price points for an OS.
        SquishyParts
  • The interesting thing about these talkback comments...

    is that the most vocal complainers about the delay are people who don't even use the Macintosh and will never be effected in any way.

    Putting aside the rhetoric, I think most people would agree that although a delay is annoying, it is better than rushing an unrefined product to the market.
    Tigertank
    • Quite right

      I've been waiting for Leopard on the edge of my seat since last year's WWDC... I really had my heart set on June, and I'm really disappointed that now I'll have to wait until mid-fall instead of late-spring.

      However, I'd rather have an OS that's rock solid and as bug-free as it can be (pardon the rhyme) than have a swiss-cheese, problem-ridden OS like Vista.

      Take your time, Apple, but try to put it out [i]sometime[/i] this year. I honestly don't care if it's the iPhone.
      ben.kreeger
  • Only one quarter's opinions count

    Those of Apple's.

    All other opinions, especially by non-Mac users, is just gas passing.
    YinToYourYang-22527499
  • Back to school

    The bad news, I guess, is that they miss bringing it to market (along with the matching iLife and iWork upgrades that will undoubtedly showcase Leopard features) before the back to school market.

    The plus side, I suppose, is that potentially means lots of extra upgrade revenue, and October puts them closer to the holiday season (my gut feel is that it's only a couple of months behind and should be done by August, but from a business point of view August is a bad month to launch anything).

    Then again, in the past they have made free upgrades available to recent purchasers, and if it does make a noticable impact on Mac sales, I'm sure they'll start selling them with upgrade vouchers from June.
    JulesLt
    • I agree here

      That was my first thought: Apple will begin to sell their hardware in June or July with vouchers for OS X 10.5. The summer should be a big selling point for Apple, because there are a lot of students purchasing laptops for back-to-school stuff.
      ben.kreeger
  • Why do people insist...

    That Apple is spinning this? Last I checked, there was 48 key coders for OSX (note that its not the 1100 that MS has for windows). So if they needed more people to finish the software for the iPhone, thats where they would go. And even if they only grabbed say, 15 people... That would make a sizable difference in how much work is getting done on Leopard.

    Now it is possible they are spinning, I just find it annoying that everybody automatically assume this anytime they say something. As if its against the laws of physics to tell the truth.
    Stuka
  • I agree the iPhone is probably an excuse

    "Actually, iPhone software may not be the worry. Leopard sounds downright buggy?in fact Apple Insider reported the latest Leopard build got worse."

    That's what I think. The iPhone might not be an exciting product (well, except to the handful of Cingular customers who haven't previously looked at smartphones and don't realise how far behind the curve the iPhone is likely to be... even if it was released today) but it's a great distraction.
    Resuna
    • Or it may just be the reason

      OF the two people I know that work at Apple, both have recently (within the last
      months) transfered to the iPhone group. One from the pro Apps group and one from
      the Core Graphics group. It does seem the phone is sucking the resources.

      And as for the phone itself. Having used "Smart Phones", the iPhone is the first that
      would make me want to really own one. It is not always about features on a checklist
      but about overall presentation of the features you have. That said, I still won't be
      buying one anytime soon:-)
      Bruizer
  • OS upgrade not as important as some other things - for pro users

    A very important part of the mac market is professional
    print graphics (it?s huge).

    That market buys higher end machines, powermacs,
    higher end imacs, and, to a lesser extent, powerbooks.
    That market cares little about the newest, latest and
    greatest OS. As long as things work properly, that?s all
    that counts. That market DOES care about the ability to
    run crucial apps. Those apps are Illustrator, Indesign,
    Photoshop, Acrobat pro, Xpress, Colorsync and some
    other soft proofing apps.

    Since Apple did the Intel thing, The above mentioned
    Adobe apps don?t work well in Rosetta. Therefore most
    pro print mac users have not purchased new machines.
    That?s hurt both Apple and Adobe. (Shortly after Apple
    went Intel, we needed some new backup machines and
    bought some G5 refurbs from Apple so our apps would
    run well. Those machines came with 10.3, but there was
    a 10.4 disc in the box. We didn?t even bother loading it,
    because 10.3 is fine.)

    In a few months Adobe will issue the Intel compatible
    version of Creative Suite. Of those apps, Indesign is
    important because its competitor, Xpress, has been a
    very problematical app (on both mac and windows) in
    it?s last 2 versions.

    Once CS3 is available and properly tested, people who
    have been stuck with older machines will be upgrading;
    with more expensive machines where Apple makes more
    profit. That will also drive sales for CS3.

    Unless you?re is familiar with the professional print
    market, You cannot understand how important this is to
    users, Apple and Adobe. It far outweighs the
    introduction of a new OS with some flashy new stuff for
    that market segment.
    j.m.galvin
  • In the meantime...

    ... I have an OS that works just great--Tiger!

    I'm betting that Apple will offer some kind of deal for a free OS upgrade for computers purchased after, maybe...June?
    Userama
  • iPhone not an excuse, but a problem?

    My gut tells me that there is no problem with Leopard, but are likely BIG problems
    with the iPhone. This is one of the few high profile products that Apple
    announced specs and a release window. Everything else, including Leopard, has
    always been a calendar quarter (or greater) announcement, and the features were
    pretty nebulous.

    The iPhone has a short release window, and a reasonably detailed set of specs.
    I'm gonna guess that Apple is having serious interface problems, and needs to
    throw every body in the building at it to get it out on time. Expectations are that
    "OS X-lite" will have the same look and feel as OS X. But it has to be a fraction of
    the size, and control more divergent hardware and software (phone, iPod,
    calendar, blutooth, cellular modem, touch screen, power management...).

    And a beta of Leopard is being distributed at the Develpers' Conference, so I'm
    thinking it's pretty well ready to go, just wiyh a few rough edges or short a few
    new graphical features. So it's not Leopard that's using iPhone as an excuse, it's
    the iPhone that could be in trouble.
    JoeBob_z
    • Poor Jobs

      It looks like he has been fooled by his own reality distortion field. I'll bet there will be a [b]lot[/b] of pissed off iPhoneV1.0 owners! Actually, no there won't be. Anyone who is foolish enough to buy an iPhone has already been brainwashed and they will simply "explain" away all the things they really, really, really hate about their new $600 + 3 year contract phone.
      NonZealot
    • But where is the iPhone problem?

      At Apple or at ATT/Cingular?

      Normally Apple handles the whole widget, but with the iPhone they have given
      a large chunk to ATT. Is there a problem with ATT's software that needs
      Apple to work out some last minute solutions? That is, in my opinion, a
      possibility as Apple was heading for a June release of Leopard until this last
      minute announcement. When I was in development it was always the last
      minute problems that caused the most misery and they were generally thrid
      party problems.
      Ken_z
      • Normally I might agree

        with the statement [i]When I was in development it was always the last minute problems that caused the most misery and they were generally thrid party problems.[/i] but in this case I would have to assume that it's Apple having the issues.

        Cingular/ATT are in the business of transmitting voice/data signals, which they have down pat or they wouldn't be in business. From what I understand that's their only involvement in this as they are the carrier. It's Apple's job (like other cell phone manufacturers) to make hardware compatable with the carrier's systems.

        Also add to the fact that I think Apple rushed out the announcement/release date of the iPhone as LG actually came out with a touch screen phone in November, and Apple needed to keep people who are interested from purchasing the LG with a 2 year agreement.
        John Zern
  • Who Cares....

    Wow get a grip people. When did America turn into such a group of risk-adverse whiners? News flash... the iPhone is innovative and new, and it took more software assets to develop. Apple isn't IBM or Intel... So what if they had to redirect resources from OS development?

    In this era of globalization (that America keeps pushing) risk takers are going to get rewarded. If you guys can't think past the next quarter and keep harping on a delay as a major failing instead of as a company's committment to quality, then pack it in because privately-held competitors or state-sponsored competitors (aka China) will eat your lunch.

    God help you when Warren Buffett dies and the "take the long view" style of investing will become a quaint memory.
    croberts