The blogosphere was buzzing yesterday when word came that Apple might hold off on releasing iOS 5.0 until the fall. What does this mean? Why would Apple break such a long tradition that goes all the way to… January 9, 2007. Okay so maybe it is not such a long-standing tradition, but you know what they say: “Do it once it is innovative; Do it twice and it is redundant; Do it a third time and it is a tradition.”
By now an annual hardware and OS update is a TRADITION. Why would Apple mess with tradition?
But it is not just tradition that is putting pressure on keeping the annual cycle. No, there are very real economic pressures on Apple too.
Apple has released one phone a year (two this year if you count rolling out the CDMA version of the iPhone) and one full point update to iOS annually. Compare that to Android which seems to have a new phone released every 9.7 seconds and an updated version of the OS every 34 seconds, and some have speculated that Apple might want, or even MUST, up their game and go to a more frequent release cycle. If iOS 5.0 is put off until fall 2011 it means that Apple did change the release cycle but they went in the “wrong” direction. It means iOS 4.0 in one of its point variations will be almost a year and a half old when it is finally replaced, and the GSM version of the iPhone 4 will be well past its first birthday. With Android continuing to gain traction, how can this possibly be a good choice for Apple?
I’m not going to speculate on the veracity of the rumor that iOS 5.0 is pushed back to the fall. Maybe it will be. Maybe it won’t be. I will, however, say this, IF it is true it tells us something important about Apple, or at least reinforces something we know about Apple. Yes, if iOS 5.0 is pushed back to the fall it tells us that despite becoming a big, money-focused corporate giant Apple… STILL THINKS DIFFERENT.
Say what? Let me explain.
The pressure to maintain a tradition of an annual cycle is great. People now EXPECT it, and Apple will hear about it if they push back to fall! Apple doesn’t care; they have rarely given in to pressure from others. The pressure from a business standpoint is likely even greater. After all, who will buy a 14 month old iPhone design in August when they can get a brand new, totally up-to-date handset from Android? There are tons of different reasons Apple might feel the need to rush iOS 5.0 out the door. But they won’t.
Others have felt similar pressure and have done just that. The original Samsung Galaxy Tab was released with an OS that was intended for phones not tablets. Why was it released? Simple, Samsung wanted to have SOMETHING in the marketplace. As a result they rushed it out the door. The Motorola Zoom is another good example. When we saw it at CES we were not allowed to actually TOUCH it. No, unlike the Atrix, the Xoom “demo” was done in the form of video clips played on the Xoom. Why? Simple, we were told that Android Honeycomb, the operating system specifically designed for tablets, was not done. It was not done in January but, as promised, less than 60 days later the Xoom was released and in the marketplace. Sure, all reports are that the OS is buggy, there are only a few Honeycomb-optimized apps and in order to get 4G on the Xoom the tablet has to actually BE SENT into Motorola, but it IS in the market. The Xoom was rushed to market before it was fully cooked. Need more proof? How about the fact that Google has recently placed restrictions to developers so they cannot access to Honeycomb version 3.0. Think about it, a tablet running Honeycomb is IN THE MARKET PLACE, but even Google admits the operating system isn’t ready.
Yes, others have felt the pressure to move faster than they know they ought to move and put things out because people expect it and they want SOMETHING available.
Apple’s not biting.
If Apple pushes iOS 5.0 back to the fall it is because THEY aren’t ready to release it until then. And no outside pressure, be it the press or monetary, is going to make them act otherwise. Apple still “Thinks Different” because they Think For Themselves.
Love ’em or hate ’em, but Apple doesn’t do anything until they are good and ready.