So that’s official. Leopard, which was promised to be released in “Spring 2007” has been pushed back to “October 2007”.
The reactions so far has been very varied, especially given the excuse for the delay : work on the iPhone OS takes a lot more energy and resources than previously planned, thus delaying the other projects.
Without breaking any NDA, it’s kinda hard to comment on the current state of Leopard betas, but trust me on this : you don’t want to install in a production computer right now. Of course, the enthusiasts and other mac zealots will say that it’s not true, that they have been using it for months now, and that it’s usable. This may be true, but for a software developer as big and as keen on reputation as Apple, usable is not enough.
I can’t say I blame them. For the past few years, the pace has been just too fast. I attended WWDC for 5 years in a row, and there has been a tangible shift in focus : when I was there the first year (at the beginning of the century), developers would attend for one main reason, to solve problems. They wanted to migrate their apps to OSX (or should I say Mac OS X), had annoying bugs with the system, or wanted to leverage the new features of the system. It was as informal as you could get : apart from the sessions on very specific topics, this was a social event. You sat down somewhere, introduced yourself to developers you’ve never met, and found out they worked for Adobe, SETI@Home, NVidia, Apple,… And then you would chat freely about your problems, and ate lunch with people who might have a much higher profile than you, but were still your comrades in the Bugs War.
Over the year, it became a ritual to have the next version of the OS handed to us, and explained in details during the sessions. WWDC became a public event. When I had a problem, I would ask my question, usually to get answers such as “you won’t have to worry about that in 10.(n+1)…”. Maybe, but my problem is now. And my clients might wince if I say “hey listen up! it’s going to be fixed in a few months, don’t worry”. The guys attending the conference would be unable to help, since no one had a precise release date. Always working on the next project, and discarding the current OS altogether has always felt like a big mistake to me.
Today, I’m glad Apple decided to take a breath and wait for the product to be perfect. Apart from the shareholders, who cares if the next release is delayed by a few months, especially if it means that we won’t have to suffer from rushed and glitches-prone features?
That said, I would really like Apple to reconsider this fast paced policy altogether. Let the developers mature an OS, and the users to get their money’s worth of the features, before changing it, however cool the new gimmicks might be.