Leopard Isn’t The ProblemApril 12th, 2007
Apple announced yesterday that Mac OS X 10.5, code/marketing-named “Leopard,” will not ship in Spring as promised, but will instead ship in October. (Confoundingly, the “Hot News” item at Apple doesn’t even have its own link, naked among the other public relations tidbits. Perhaps a sign that they’re not proud of the statement).
The announcement caps off a season of speculation alleging fluctuations in Leopard’s ship date. While early 2007 brought us lunatics predicting a March release, more recent speculation has hinted that a substantial delay was inevitable. This theory was soundly rejected by Apple less than three weeks ago, in a response to what turned out to be quite an accurate preview of the brutal truth.
The news has inspired reactions by respected Mac OS X developers (Gus Mueller, Brent Simmons, David Weiss, among others) and users (David Chartier, John Gruber, the Macalope, and many, many others). But while these people offer intelligent views on the relative pros and cons of the delay and its consequences to ordinary people, I don’t see much reaction to the core problems in Apple’s confession. I envision a bunch of PR folks sitting in an office toiling with the fact that they’ll have to break this unfortunate news. What to do, what to do. One of them has the brilliant idea that they can simply “blame” the iPhone. By blaming a problem on what’s widely perceived by the public to as a success, it will somehow make the company appear mature and well-reasoned in its decisions. Something more excusable than a company that occasionally fails to work a miracle. And somehow this idea made its way through some review process and all the way to public release. In stark contrast to Steve Jobs’s brilliantly candid Thoughts On Music, this statement sounds made-up and poorly thought-out. Bluntly crafted, sleazy marketing bullshit.
The best we can hope for is that it is only sleazy marketing bullshit. Because if what Apple’s telling us is true, then they’ve confessed something tragic: they’re incapable of building more than one amazing product at a time. The iPhone looks like it will be an amazing product, but if Apple can’t keep an OS team focused and operational at the same time as they keep a cell phone team hacking away, then the company is destined for extremely rough waters as it attempts to expand the scope of its product line.
What happens when the phone takes off, and Apple’s stuck following through on their Mac OS X commitments? “Sorry, no iPhone 2.0 until 2009 – we’ve had to move everybody back to OS X!” Needless to say, even with the apparent comingling of iPhone and iPod technologies, this situation leaves me unable to speculate as to when a dramatically new iPod might find time to be developed in this environment.
If Apple is truly so strapped for talent that they can’t focus on more than one product at once, then it’s a symptom of a sickness within the company. Perhaps they’ve regained success too quickly. If a company with a market capitalization of $80 Billion, and a cash account of at least $6 Billion, cannot hire enough people to build three of the hottest, most demanded products in consumer electronics (the iPod, the Mac, and the iPhone, if it’s not obvious), then maybe it’s time to reevaluate their modus operandi for attracting and retaining talent.
The first thing Apple should do is go global. Their products are universally renowned, yet the company requires the vast majority of its engineering teams to live and work in California – in a suburban, high-cost area of California, at that. Sure, Apple has a few small teams scattered around the world, but mostly as side-effects of specific acquisitions. The message to all Mac developers I know is being heard loud and clear: if you want to be part of this revolution, you’ll have to move to Cupertino. By limiting the company’s ranks primarily to those people willing to live in this one particular geographical location, they shut down their ability to attract a huge number of talented individuals.
If Apple’s having trouble growing its ranks of geniuses, the solution may require something that no amount of cash or stock can buy: a change of attitude.
April 12th, 2007 at 10:57 pm
I totally follow your logic, but it’s hard to imagine an Apple that is spread out across the globe. You can’t move one product to the east coast or anything cause they are so intertwined. Generally speaking so much about Apple (from my ‘ousider’ perspective) is that they are all about control and secrecy; having your people spread out makes that much harder and I wonder if it’s something they are willing to sacrifice. From my recollection they are building a second campus in Cupertino so I’d say the answer is no.
Then again, for the shareholders it *is* all about growth, and if they have hit a development cap keeping everything centered in Cupertino maybe the board will shake it up. From a shareholder perspective this is a real issue and not a mere geeky annoyance.
April 12th, 2007 at 11:00 pm
Let’s also not forget that the iPhone is “based on OS X”, so it may be that the OS X people have had to work hard on making it work effectively in people’s hands, to the point of distraction from making Leopard for people’s Macs.
April 12th, 2007 at 11:44 pm
I’m not sure I buy the argument that the problem is insufficient supply of talented programmers willing to work for Apple in the Bay Area. I think a better explanation might be that Apple (at least the Mac parts of Apple) don’t have a culture that allows them to grow rapidly. Unlike, say, Google, they are not a headcount increasing machine. This makes sense, given the history of the Mac, but now that Mac OS X will (presumably) provide the guts of their high growth products (iPod, iPhone) this culture will have to change.
April 12th, 2007 at 11:52 pm
It does seem a bit silly that Apple can’t hire enough developers to get their products shipping on time… especially considering the extremely lengthly roadmap of Leopard (compared to previous OS releases). One thing that I hypothesize (without any specific supporting evidence) may be slowing them down is dual PPC/Intel development which must be quite challenging for an OS. However I don’t think this excuses them from the slipping ship dates.
One thing I find very frustrating is the ever-looming unannounced ‘secret features’… do they really exist and perhaps can explain the delay? Because, of the features announced so far, Time Machine is the only ‘Tier 1’ feature for end users (I know there’s lots of good stuff in there for developers but that doesn’t do much good if the end users don’t upgrade). Features like iChat tabs and Mail notes are not enough to justify big $ upgrades and the Spotlight/Dashboard updates hardly count because they’re basically fixing those features to ‘how they should have been in the first place’.
What it boils down to is that if Apple is going to convince people to plunk down $129 (even after the extended dev time) then they’re going to have to roll out some other significant new features, and I really hope that’s what they’re using this extra time to do.
April 12th, 2007 at 11:56 pm
This is the same company that kept Intel Mac OS X secret for all of those years and was able to pull it out of the woodwork at the needed moment. Apple is more than capable of running multiple engineering projects at once. Definitely engineering overlap between OS teams for AppleTV + iPhone + Macs. But if they (Steve Jobs) really had wanted both iPhone and 10.5 launches to happen simultaneously, it would have happened.
AppleTV launch required Mac OS X engineering resources. Rumors were the OS slowed the product launch. Similar enough to iPhone OS blame that embedded Mac OS X is a big project. Mac OS X 10.4.9 was released recently, that team now gets to focus on 10.5 bugs.
There are compelling reasons for Apple to delay to Oct. Apple deciding to use only the iPhone in the press as an excuse for the 10.5 delay is a cop out, agreed.
– Vista positioning is probably a big factor. Vista non-interest from most users has given Apple some breathing room. If Vista had had a strong early 2007 release, Apple would have needed to respond quickly with 10.5 for both Mac and potential Win converts. Now they can take their time and make sure they leap frog Vista (for real or perceived). 10.5 top secret features better deliver …
– October launch lets them use 10.5 as a major Mac OS X upgrade factor for the holiday computer buying season. Also lets them get all of the Mac hardware lined up for holidays with 10.5 on it. This makes a lot of marketing sense. They miss the school purchasing season but schools are going to buy hardware with or without 10.5
– seems iLife “2007” and Works are going to launch with 10.5. Two other big projects that benefit from more features + polish from 3 more months engineering
– iPhone will launch huge in June with all of Apple marketing behind it, no distractions from a big OS upgrade
There is probably a hard limit of how many low level Mac OS X engineers there are in the world (given lower overall demand to date). Apple is devoting a lot of engineering to embedded Mac OS X across 3 launch platforms (AppleTV and iPhone being completely new devices). You are going to see some resource constraints. Aperture dev team stories gave some indication Apple will shuffle teams around if really needed and it can impact project schedules. But think it is a lot harder to hire specific resources to work with low level OS stuff.
On the bright side, non-DRM iTunes Store is targeted June timeframe, Final Cut Studio update maybe announced next week, 802.11n router updates are flying out, hardware side keeps churning out minor updates, etc. Apple is pushing forward a lot more products than in the past. Given the recent spike in core Mac OS X engineering demand, can expect some tradeoffs to be made. iPhone is Steve’s baby, needs to lauch with minimal hickups …
April 13th, 2007 at 12:08 am
If the iPhone is successful, they’ll expand headcount.
They’ve just put out AppleTV, which required software resources. The iPhone is requiring software resources. The software headcount has previously just been about OS X and iApps/iPod. Two new products stretches that headcount thin, and expansion takes time.
This is growing pains.
April 13th, 2007 at 1:08 am
by the way Leopard is code-named “Chablis” not Leopard, which wouldn’t be a code name.
The reason for using code names is that the Apple engineers being overheard in public don’t give away too much.
April 13th, 2007 at 1:22 am
It’s a shame that Leopard is being delayed, but it does make good marketing sence to launch Apple TV, then iPhone and finally Leopard. It gives each product breathing room and ensures the media spotlight will shine on each without being distracted.
That being said, if Apple are really finding it hard to get developers Steve can send me an email. I’ll happily pack up and ship out to Cupertino (from Australia) if I can get a graduate position (or better) with Apple :)
April 13th, 2007 at 2:23 am
I don’t mind software being late. It’s a fact of life. But the marketing spin is annoying.
The majority of Macintosh users (i.e. Leopard purchasers) do not live in the US. So, we’re being told that Leopard is being delayed for a yuppie toy that the majority of Mac users won’t get access to for at least a year, if EVER. The product is so tied in to specific technologies and telco arrangments and regulatory regimes that Apple have enough on their plate just feeding the US market, let alone the larger international market. By which time, any number of other competitors will have surfaced. A year or two is an eon in the mobile phone world.
Hell. Some countries don’t even have iTunes stores yet, so what are their chances of ever getting an iPhone?
example: Australia is a profitable market for Apple. But there are no reasonable plans for Apple to engage that market with the iPhone. The country’s largest (and by far the most powerful) carrier, Telstra, isn’t interested in the slightest. (Telstra is too busy selling its own overpriced yuppie toys.)
This excuse by Apple is clearly bullshit. It’s just their way of saying that Leopard is still buggy and that they’re behind schedule.
April 13th, 2007 at 4:35 am
If Apple would introduce the top secret features at WWDC and instantly start selling Leopard, there won’t be time for developers to implement those features in their apps. From my point of view this delay isn’t that negative as you exposed it to be.
Futhermore Apple typically does not introduce products before they’re ready to ship. Recently Apple deviated from this strategy, but I think this is just a temporary abnormality. We don’t know how often Apple decided to delay, say, the iPod nano.
Steve knows what he does. We should rely on him.
April 13th, 2007 at 5:32 am
The problem is the Indie Mac Developers. A bunch of selfish people that don’t go to the Mother Ship and give a helping hand. You should all the ashamed of yourselves. :)
April 13th, 2007 at 6:58 am
It does seem a bit silly that Apple can”™t hire enough developers to get their products shipping on time…
It’s not about the headcount.
Read the Mythican-man-month!
April 13th, 2007 at 7:22 am
I’m surprised no one has brought up Aperture. My concern here is whether they shifted Leopard devs over at the last minute out of desperation. Basically, the Mythical Man-Month effect may already have reared its ugly head.
Personally, I do think Apple needs to open up and be more global in terms of its talent. Not everybody wants to live near Cupertino and Google is showing that there is great talent to be snatched up all over.
In any case, I’m not all that bothered by Leopard being late. I’d rather have something stable than something on time in this case.
April 13th, 2007 at 7:55 am
I think you recognized the symptom, but not the cause. The reason that all operations must be at Cupertino is Steve’s inability to not meddle in things on a daily basis or whenever the mood strikes him. He simply is incapable of delegating authority, which limits the range of things that he can personally manage.
It would be easy for Apple to have other U.S. based centers which avoid the problems you describe of relocating to Cupertino, but Steve couldn’t “drop in” all the time.
Expecting Steve to change his ways is like, well…expecting a Leopard to change it’s spots.
This is the curse of those who micro-manage, even the talented ones.
April 13th, 2007 at 8:32 am
Anyone who has been in the software business for more than a few weeks knows that projects sometimes run over. Apple in fact has been extraordinarily productive both relative to their competitors and the old Apple.
I think it’s remarkable that this happens so seldom with them actually.
April 13th, 2007 at 8:40 am
“Blaming” the iPhone might be spin, or a copout, but to me it seems plausible. As others have noted, the solution to slippage is not necessarily to hire a lot of people. And if I had a choice between shipping the iPhone on time and shipping Leopard on time, I’d definitely pick the iPhone. Apple may or may not be betting the company on the iPhone, but it’s definitely betting a hell of a lot more than on Leopard.
If somebody from Apple comes out and says there wasn’t really a significant shift of personnel from Leopard to the iPhone, so WTF is Steve talking about, then that would be an embarrassment. Assuming the excuse is false, does it buy Apple so much that it’s worth telling the lie? No matter what explanation they give, they are admitting that they can’t ship both Leopard and the iPhone on time.
That said, I’m not sure what to make of recent un-Applelike behavior. Since when do they share even this much info about their internal project management? And since when do they publicly predict sales figures (as in 10 million iPhones)?
April 13th, 2007 at 8:47 am
The points about the mythical man month are good. I’m not suggesting that Apple simply throw human resources at the problem, if indeed there is one. Hiring lots more people won’t inherently cure any problem, but hiring enough people to prevent musical chairs whenever the company’s focus changes, sounds like a good idea.
And I don’t really believe Apple’s problems are as simple as this – I just want to call attention to the flaw in Apple’s stance. As an investor in the company, I’d like to think they’re capable of pulling off many tricks at once.
I zeroed in on the staffing excuse because it has been my impression that Apple, in spite of being one of the most desirable tech companies in the world to work for, has trouble attracting and retaining the sheer number of “big brains” they need to keep the gears turning. Perhaps broadening their geographic reach would help to solve this problem.
April 13th, 2007 at 8:51 am
I agree that they’d keep a lot more engineers if they eased the Cupertino-only maxim… I left a year ago to get back to New England… but I don’t ever see it happening.
In subsequent conversations with teams that I’ve either worked with in the past or worked with people on them in different groups, we’ve come thisclose to doing the remote thing… but there’s still a huge reluctance to have people working from foreign lands (New England is an entirely different country to the Santa Clara Valley). And I know that one of the best parts of the job(s) at Apple was working on campus, in a pretty stimulating environment, nice weather, constant threat of falling into the ocean, should the plates move apart, and the cafeteria, so I don’t know how well it would work out, working remotely, anyway. So I guess I agree with the policy, even if, for personal reasons, I’d love to see, like Michael, Apple East just to the north of Boston)
April 13th, 2007 at 8:53 am
By coincidence I unpacked my new MacBook Pro just yesterday, and on the little black box containing the disks/manuals/etc. found once again these familiar words:
“Designed by Apple in California”
I’m as much of an Apple fanboy as anyone, and even I find this a little smug. I don’t think Apple believes there are a “huge number of talented individuals” outside Cupertino, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.
(I’ve lived on the east coast of the USA my whole life. Apple offered me a job in 1992, but my wife and I ultimately decided to stay near our families.)
April 13th, 2007 at 9:07 am
I find the explanation from Apple very plausible. They want to ship the iPhone on time, this is where all the attention is. OS X development has been stretched over Mac OX, Apple TV and iPhone. These are recent and very exceptional circumstances. They may have also underestimated the technical challenges of a “stripped-down version of Mac OS X”. They only have a limited number of OS X savvy developers, and they can’t just throw more random people at it (insert mythical man month blurb here).
Again, these are exceptional circumstances. Apple has not done a good job at planning well for all these new products and technologies. They need to hire more people, but more importantly, make these people valuable and useful. That takes time and planning.
April 13th, 2007 at 9:36 am
“… if Apple can”™t keep an OS team focused and operational at the same time as they keep a cell phone team hacking away, then… [doom]”
You seem to be overlooking the fact that Leopard and the iPhone are essentially one and the same project. Leopard runs the iPhone, which in turn integrates with the desktop version of Leopard and its apps. They’re interdependent in a way that makes the two tasks more like a single, linear process.
This is really an unfounded fear. Apple is firing on all cylinders right now, and despite this minor setback, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t continue to do so.
April 13th, 2007 at 9:37 am
I think the deeper issue isn’t Apple’s ability to hire developers, plenty would love to work at Apple. The real issue is that the company has two new initiatives into vastly new market spaces. These initiatives are far more complex than the MP3 player market. And if Apple doesn’t pull these two new products off — and do it quickly — than the company will take a huge hit.
You can’t remake the home entertainment and the smart phone arenas from scratch with developers that have just been hired. You need people who know the Apple development environments and the culture from the inside out. Having a bunch of folks offshore doesn’t give you that level of understanding of the Apple approach to usability.
I’m sure Apple is hiring as quickly as they can but then need integrated teams that can play the game at a very high level. So lets let them do the job the right way.
April 13th, 2007 at 9:53 am
Thanks, Daniel, for drawing attention to the aspect of the news I found most annoying: the “let’s make it into an iPhone story and then it’s not bad news” spin. That seemed pretty lame coming from the exalted PR gods of Cupertino. :-)
April 13th, 2007 at 10:01 am
I know several programmers who left Apple primarily because they didn’t want to be located in the SF Bay Area. It’s an overcrowded and expensive place to live, and god help you if you’re not living within walking distance of your workplace.
Re: Google, last I heard, their standard policy was that you had to be on site. They do seem to make rare exceptions, as Apple does. There are a handful of Apple software engineers who full time telecommute, but it’s not encouraged, and you’re not going to be working remotely on anything near to Steve Jobs’s heart.
It is possible to scale software teams in ways that do not summon Fred Brooks’s ire. It’s not 1968 anymore; there are standards and practices that — assuming focused, hands-on management — actually work.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:04 am
Chris: Google does at least have engineering offices in some major cities like New York and (I believe) Boston. It’s not to say that you will necessarily be able to work on the project of your dreams, but at least they’re making an effort to bring in talent that happens to live “abroad.”
April 13th, 2007 at 10:06 am
Well, all is not lost.
According to a CNN Tech headline, it’s just JAGUAR that is delayed
April 13th, 2007 at 10:20 am
Dumbass Maczealots take any spin from Holy Steve, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to create one.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:21 am
@Daniel: Several locations, including an engineering center in Kirkland, WA.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:27 am
Oh me, oh my! A big software company undertakes many sophisticated interlocking projects, and then discovers that sometimes it can’t hit its dates due to complexities inherent in the system! Does this sound familiar?
Here’s the deal: Sweetheart Apple is getting a lot closer to being Microsoft than most people here would be willing to admit. In the last five years, they’ve grown from a hardware company with some boutique OS and app software, to a real software company, with many divisions, many diversified products–including a complex OS in multiple SKUs–and are now facing the realities of what being in that position means. It sometimes means realizing too late that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew on something, and unforseen delays and slipped schedules. Not always, and if they’re smart they’ll learn from this experience. But the spotlight is on them today in a way that it hasn’t been for many years, and it’s increasingly difficult to hit the bar that they and others set for themselves.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:37 am
Am I right in thinking that this is the first OS X major upgrade that is shipping without Tevanian at it’s helm? Interesting if so.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:38 am
Errr…. “its” I mean, of course.
April 13th, 2007 at 10:53 am
One of the most striking things you notice when you talk with anyone working at Apple’s Cupertino campus is that they really don’t seem to be working for a ‘big company’. I’m convinced that the synergy that’s enabled by keeping an ever growing group of talented people near eachother – having lunch together, etc. – is what enables them to create exceptional stuff.
‘Going global’ in the sense you describe may lower the barrier to entry for talented people from abroad, but it’ll make the magic that happens by sharing a single place to work in (running into eachother, discussing stuff that wouldn’t normally come up during a meeting, simply keeping in touch) slowly fade away. Eventually that would turn Apple into a ‘big company’.
Big companies don’t create the next big thing, the little ones do. I think it’s pretty smart to keep your core people close together if your line of work is somewhere in the gray area between art and science, it lets sparks create fires.
April 13th, 2007 at 11:01 am
“What we know as the truth is not always the case. This is a bit of sneaky spin, but it’s not untrue or unfounded. As you might recall all the fun new tools that the iPhone uses to interact with use fleshies are built on the same foundation, and while that foundation has some amazing leaps in the past, just because this doesn’t look like one doesn’t mean it isn’t one.
In fact, just going over the rumors and other bits known about the iPhone and about Leopard:
— we’ve got a THIRD PROCESSOR in as many years;
— multi-touch is brand new, even though it might be related to ink, it’s truly unlikely that it is. and it’s got to be able to touch everything;
— the systems have up to 8 cores, which is requiring new memory management to be defined;
— the iPhone has to work with Vista. I know that seems like a minor thing, but look, they are still having issues getting iTunes to work, let alone get it to properly sync with iPods, and those have all been out for a while. Imagine the mess ahead for that!
So yes, it’s “the iPhone’s fault” because the iPhone has expanded the core OS in ways that even a skunkworks program couldn’t foresee. And that, my friends, is exactly what happened. I asked Obi-wan.
April 13th, 2007 at 11:10 am
Actually Apple is building a new campus near its headquarters in cupertino. While that’ll ease over crowded in their current campus and in rented office space, I’m sure it will also allow for expansion in terms of employees. Also, the large team is necessary for a big release. It’s insane to think that the company should even release the 2 in the same month for PR reasons. It’d be a confusing mess. Look at how the AppleTV got swallowed up by the iPhone announcement. It’d just be too messy.
April 13th, 2007 at 12:02 pm
The iPhone was a “secret” project until January. We all saw how incomplete it was at that phase. So, it genuinely needed more software engineers.
Taking engineers from the OS X development team makes a lot of sense because iPhone is OS X.
I propose that had Apple developed the iPhone openly and had the full resources available from the get-go then both projects would be complete and on-schedule.
April 13th, 2007 at 12:52 pm
I am not surprised at the delay of Leopard since Mac OS X is the core for many of Apple’s new products – iPhone, MacTV etc. You may want to read the book by Fred Brooks “The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering”, as to why Apple can not throw bodies to accelerate OS development.
April 13th, 2007 at 1:14 pm
Not true IMHO. The iPhone seems to be a breakthrough product in a way that even the iPod wasn’t, in the sense that all eyes are really on Apple now for the launch of the iPhone. The iPod, as far as I know, slipped out relatively quietly in comparision. It could be said that the iPhone is Apple’s first *real* venture into the world of consumer electronics, because their other products so far have been computer related in a way that the iPhone isn’t. You need a Mac/PC to use an iPod, Airport, or Apple TV, but the iPhone is different. People who will never buy a Mac will buy this thing. If Apple gets the launch wrong, it will give the impression that they can’t hack it in the world of consumer electronics. So yes, I think we should take Apple’s press release at something close to face value: right now, the iPhone is more important than OS X. There. I’ve said it.
But it won’t always be like that. Once the iPhone is launched and succesful, Apple will be able to balance things out a little and swing their focus back to OS X. In fact this will be necessary, since OS X is what makes the iPhone so cool in the first place. Down the line, we’ll probably see the Mac OS and th iPhone OS developing much more in tamden than they are right now, which will mean that development work on one platform will probably help, rather than hinder, work on the other platform.
So give Apple a break; they’re really just doing what they need to.
April 13th, 2007 at 2:03 pm
When I first read of the delay and why, the first thought that occured to me was that Apple was admitting they were robbing Peter to pay Paul…and all that implies, which is just what Daniel has enunciated.
From a business perspective this is not something a company wants to tell the world as it says a lot about they operate. I would almost preffered that Apple had simply lied about the delay. This kind of admission has very negative connotations and will have serious consequences. Unless the iPhone takes off like a rocket, which from a PR perspective, will negate some of the situation.
April 13th, 2007 at 2:08 pm
This is brilliantly written. Everything in this statement, is, as it stands this moment, true too. When WWDC 06 rolled around, I was very excited as I wanted and knew that Apple can and, so I thought, would come up with a revolutionary new Operating System to crush this so-called Vista. Instead, I watch the WWDC on Quicktime screencast what appeared to be some black box with colored icons in it. Just by the way Jobs was talking about it, I knew this was going to out-wind Leopard. Present day, it has. Because of this over priced, *Good lord Apple, 500/600 dollars for a CELLPHONE!* over featured PDA *that’s right Apple, it’s a PDA, just like the Black Jack and no amount of statements or touch screens will change that*, I believe 10.5 will fail or not meet our standards as users, I mean, lets face it, Apple fed us all that stuff about Windows delaying Vista, and now there turning back on their word and concentrating on another product and delaying the other product they bragged about. Apple is slowly moving away from the market they used to lead, computers and computer Software. Instead, there starting to concentrate on small, electrical products like MP3 players and cellphones. A waste of technical engineering in my opinion. Here’s to the good old days.
Note this is my opinions all, feel free to comment for arguments sake! Ahh, the glory of blogging, nothing like it!
April 13th, 2007 at 3:10 pm
Daniel, admit it, you just want to get re-hired and still stay east coast. ;-)
April 13th, 2007 at 3:24 pm
InternBoy: Hey – are they in the market for a sassy blogger in Boston? :)
April 13th, 2007 at 5:03 pm
I don’t think the iPhone had anything to do with Leopard’s delay. From everything I’ve heard from friends, that’s got “BS” stamped all over it. But who knows?
Full disclosure: I’m probably the only Apple engineer who’s ever had his telecommuting agreement cancelled by a vindictive VP. Back in 2003 I was basically given the choice either to move back to California from Ohio, or stay married. So, um, I’m rather close to that subject. :-)
You’re basically right. I’ll throw in some color commentary and add that Apple does have a decent number of individuals telecommuting among some groups. I can name about a dozen in CoreOS alone.
But those are all unique individual cases, where the person is so talented and useful that they would prefer to keep them and have them telecommute than lose them. I fully agree with your statement that there is no large engineering presence anywhere except in Cupertino, and the general message is that you can’t be hired unless you are local.
April 14th, 2007 at 1:48 am
like you I have grave concerns about what this means if it is not just marketing BS. My take is that if you take it at face value it is really bad planning and in particular bad project management. Woefully bad. As a PM its embarrassing how bad it is. If you consider that Leopard has been delayed by 4 months, six weeks before its scheduled date you realise how long ago this problem must have been brewing. Somewhere between WWDC and MWSF was the crunch point. That’s bad, real bad.
– Lack of devs: I agree about the Mythical Man Month and not just because someone’s explained the title to me but because as a PM I know it from personal experience. However good planning would have made sure that there were enough devs. Though the retention and Cupertino only aspect is quite key.
– “Its OK cos iPhone runs OS X, so its the same thing”. BS. Good planning would have handled this.
– “iPhone won’t be distracted by OS X release”. BS. They’ve had a year knowing that these two would be released at the same time. Apple of all should know whether they can handle that from a marketing perspective.
My guess? one or two out of two:
1. They didn’t have enough resource on the iPhone to deliver on time because of Apple’s obsessive secrecy meant that they kept the dev team small enough to be need-to-know manageable. Then they’ve announced it and they can throw the resources it that it needs.
2. Bottom line figures. By delaying either the iPhone or OS X they are going to lose revenue. Either iPhone revenue or Leopard+Mac+iLife revenue. They must have some serious marketing feedback numbers for the iPhone to justify delaying Leopard rather than the iPhone.
As a dev aiming to release his 1.0 as Leopard only in June-July, this is a major screw over. Fortunately I reckon back porting to Tiger will only take me 2-3 weeks as the main Leopard only stuff I was using was Obj-C 2.0
Gruber’s got this completely wrong.
April 14th, 2007 at 3:17 am
Re: Sanjay Samani’s comments about the Mythical Man Month… He’s spot on: the MMM is not the reason for the delay, it’s the reason they can’t fix it now. Poor planning is really the problem here.
Apple’s iPhone excuses are true, but still BS: Tiger will be 2 years old in about 2 weeks and that’s the longest time between any release of Mac OS X. Furthermore the iPhone has surely been in the works for at least a year.
This stuff should have been planned better.
April 14th, 2007 at 6:57 am
If Vista was significantly better than Tiger, the delay would be a major problem. It’s not, so the problem is minor.
It’s worth remembering, when contemplating the age of Tiger, that when it was released Apple said they considered OSX to now be a mature operating system, and that the release of new versions would therefore be slower. They probably didn’t mean quite this much slower, but it’s still, on balance, the best operating system in general use, so its replacement is hardly a matter of urgency.
Given the choice between allocating resources to meet the deadline of A. a project with extremely highly developed expectations, but no alternative pre-release product to sell, or B. a project with almost equally developed expectations, but with a highly satisfactory existing product to tide you and your customers over, which woud you choose?
April 14th, 2007 at 1:12 pm
First of all, Apple should not be putting new hires on OS X. They should hire new developers and put them on less critical projects like iPhoto (still waiting for my often requested enhancement that viewers of my iPhoto-generated web pages can buy prints directly from that page) and AppleScript (oh, dear Lord, please make a version of Script Editor that guides you through the statement-building process and makes AS live up to its enormous potential). Then, they could take the senior developers on those projects and move them to the core of the Apple: OS X.
I would not be surprised that there is a real lack of talented developers that can function in an environment like the OS X team. I write software for about 50 people that I all know by name. I can make many assumptions about their knowledge and skills, yet still the job is challenging. (While I can call myself a developer, I cannot certify that I count as a “talented developer.”) I can hardly imagine what it must be like to write an OS that gets used by me, my mom, my daughter, my sister, my wife and my in-laws where it has to operate flawlessly no matter what we throw at it!!
From what I know about Leopard today, I am still not stoked about it. I would have to know more of what these “secret features” do before I’d get really excited about plunking down my $200 (for the family pack). From the consumer point of view, I don’t see anything as big as some of the Tiger features like Automator, Spotlight (which I like), Dashboard and even FileVault (if I traveled a lot and was really concerned about my data.)
April 14th, 2007 at 1:16 pm
I think I get your point macFanDave, but it sounds like you’re equating “new hire” with “lack of experience.” Lots of people who Apple hire are not inexperienced at the time of their hire, so it would be foolish not to use their skills on whatever project they can best contribute to.
The idea that “new hire” who is an expert in kernel programming should be put in the iPhoto group, well… :)
Also, in their own important ways iPhoto and AppleScript are just as important to the platform as “OS X.”
April 14th, 2007 at 5:19 pm
I think it’s not very tricky to find out what happened. Apple does have orders (pre-orders) for iphone in magnitue level. They need free capacity callcenter for the daily process. And of course some develper are here core.
If Apple would confirm – that they used distributed objects – former PDO under NEXT and exspecially General Magic – more or less the same project like the iphone. Far more advanced than Newton 14 Years ago.
The big advantage is for the balance sheet – iphone is covering sales till sept.
Apples new accounting year starts with 1st oct and of course Leopard is 100% there in. I assume that all Apple application and M$ Office are ready then.
April 14th, 2007 at 5:30 pm
One of the reasons for Apple’s success and MS’s failure, IMHO, is the fact that MS is composed of committees and Apple is a small tightly knit group.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
The downside to this is that Apple really doesn’t have the manpower and is stretching itself really thin. Of course, what they do from now on determines whether Apple is going to turn into a committee based IBM or MS or maintain its focus and integrity.
April 15th, 2007 at 7:16 pm
Maybe Apple just spoke the truth. It is what it is.
The iPhone uses OS X. Key OS engineers working on the iPhone release needed to stay on it longer than expected, thus, hurting Leopard.
Maybe some managers will be fired and spill their guts. Then we’ll know exactly what happened. Otherwise, it’s just wasted words and time on speculation.
April 15th, 2007 at 7:32 pm
This blog is definitely not speculation free. I doubt it ever will be.
April 15th, 2007 at 7:48 pm
“Maybe Apple just spoke the truth. It is what it is.
The iPhone uses OS X. Key OS engineers working on the iPhone release needed to stay on it longer than expected, thus, hurting Leopard.
Maybe some managers will be fired and spill their guts. Then we”™ll know exactly what happened. Otherwise, it”™s just wasted words and time on speculation.”
Gone are the days when a whole operating system would fit on a floppy with a few k to spare!
OSes are vastly bigger. They have to do more. Apple has limited resources. They had to sacrifice something. The iPhone will make big bucks for Apple, giving them cash with which to hire more engineers.
April 15th, 2007 at 8:07 pm
This weeks announcements; New Mac Pros w/ quad core CPUs, Final Cut Pro and FC Server, Leopard delay, iPhone on time.
Poor Apple, they can only work on one thing at a time.
April 15th, 2007 at 8:22 pm
Steve W, you write:
“Poor Apple, they can only work on one thing at a time.”
Perhaps you don’t have much idea quite how much work there is in Leopard. It’s a huge job. The iPhone is also a huge job. Tiger is already a better product IMO than XP or Vista. Vista took FIVE years. Leopard is going to take HALF of this and be a much more important product.
Why don’t you cut Apple some slack?
April 15th, 2007 at 8:24 pm
Apple should announce it’s second quarter results to the financial community this Wednesday. Those results will either exacerbate or negate the impact of this delay. That’s why Wall St. hasn’t reacted yet. That is probably why Apple made the announcement now.
Apple introduced the new Mac Pro this week. Some potential buyers probably planned to wait until June and the release of Leopard. Apple probably announced the Leopard delay to discourage waiting. It is probably these fence sitters that are most upset about the delay.
April 16th, 2007 at 2:07 am
the only thing i can see wrong in this arguement is that the iphone is new, therefore every line of code has to be written or ported, the iphone 2 (whatever you want to call it) won’t come with a completely rewritten os, instead it’ll build on the one they already have, therefore not taking as long to write the code for! and i think that the team has been working on the os for the phone just because it is coming close to release and there are a few bugs, it would be exactly the same for os x if there was nothing more important, there is no ONE team for this, and ONE team for that. the people who write the code in the ipod would also write code for os x and the iphone and even the a-tv, if necessary. that is how all of apple’s products work so well together, because they are a small company where everyone has some insight into other departments, because they work in/with that other department! this is maybe the reason that the company is small, so there aren’t individual teams working on everything seperatily, therefore not producing as much, but of a higher quality. i believe this is the problem with microsoft, they have some of the best programs ever, but everything they come up with, regardless of whether it could take the market or not, doesn’t work seamlessly with every other product of theirs. this can sometimes be attributed to third party hardware, but if they have such a huge employee base, why do they have difficultly. it has nothing to do with how many people you employ, just how well intergrated into your business each of them is! i believe apple employs the best people they can find for each field. and they keep it small so that it all works! and remember apple is a completely vertical business. shouldn’t microsoft that has partners to help it, be able to do a better job than apple?
they are not blaming the iphone, they are telling you the truth about why one of their products will be late, that or the true reason is a complete secret that no one knows about, they have an os x already, and they want to get the iphone out on time, because they currently have no product that fits into that catagory. if you ask me, tiger can quite easily hold its ground against vista. i also think that there is more to this picture than what we know! how do we know that the iphone and os x are the only things being delivered this year, what about the ipod? its their 30th year celebration… could there be something else in the works that we don’t know about? maybe that is what’s truly holding os x up!
April 16th, 2007 at 2:18 am
p.s. what you said about a coupon to collect leopard when it is completed would be an awesome idea and would definitely encourage switchers or potential switchers to change, i know i would take that opportunity if i didn’t think that a completely revamped line of desktops and macbooks… um… laptops, were nipping at leopards heels!
April 16th, 2007 at 1:01 pm
About spreading out engineering over several centers:
When you divisionalize you wind up with no cooperation across divisions?
So it may very well be that we will hit such limits. Let me give you an example of where our model will break down.
The model that I’ve just described completely breaks down when you have a large amount of international engineering — which we intend to do. So I project that everything I’ve just told you is going to break down.
Why does it break down when you have so much international engineering?
Time zones. You can’t get everybody — even on conference calls you can’t get everybody in a virtual room to build a consensus. So if you go through, we have a big operation in India, Zurich, we’re considering engineering in a whole bunch of other places in Europe, of course you have a very successful group in New York and Kirkland and Santa Monica already. So you now span time zones such that you can’t fundamentally do an integrated meeting in that sense.
Why do it, given the downside?
Well, because we want the best talent all around the world. There’s an enormous amount of programming talent in China, we want that talent to work at Google. And the fact is they want to work in China, they actually like China, it’s their home, or the U.S. won’t allow them in. So we have to adapt, just to be very clear here, we have to adapt the culture that I’m describing with this international development focus.
It’s relatively easy to see how to manage international sales because sales is organized pretty much hierarchically. You have a country manager and you have somebody who runs all of Europe and somebody who runs Japan, somebody runs Asia, and we have that, and that’s traditional.
Engineering, however, is done in this odd consensus way, right, unusual, and it’s never been done with the kind of engineering, international engineering scale that we’re proposing. It’s a problem to be solved.
April 16th, 2007 at 2:53 pm
Based on my experience with Leopard seeds, I’d say that they’re just running late and blaming the iPhone so they can say something other than “We’re late.”
Tiger was also running late, but they released what was done as 10.4.0, and it showed. I was shocked when the 10.4.0 GM was announced.. it still had lots of bugs. Look how many big bug fixes showed up in 10.4.1 and 10.4.2 .. if they’d waited for it to be done rather than sticking with their marketing plan, it would have been another two months before Tiger’s release.
I think they’re smart to wait for it to be more stable .. there’s going to be a lot of comparison with Vista so they need Leopard to be rock solid. Plus, it will probably help both the iPhone and Leopard not to be released at the same time. Spreading out the releases will likely result in more press for both. I think Apple had been trying to get Leopard ready quick because of Vista, but now that Vista has ended up being less popular than expected, some of the pressure is off so they’re willing to delay the release in order to make it better.
April 17th, 2007 at 8:00 am
Well, it’s nice that Google is dispersing geographically.
On the subject of Leopard, I think this is insightful, at least up until the concluding paragraph, which seems a bit off the rails:
April 17th, 2007 at 8:06 am
I should note I’ve also heard multiple times from Apple managers that they’re not allowed to increase their headcount despite glaring and justifiable needs. It’s getting a bit ridiculous. You don’t want the obesity of Copland, but the extreme inverse is malnutrition…
April 17th, 2007 at 10:39 am
Steve has made so much fun of M$’s Vista delays that someone had to give him cover so that he would not have to publically admit that he too had missed a shipping date.
April 18th, 2007 at 1:52 pm
I see another alternative that makes sense. At WWDC 06 Apple announced 10.5 Leopard but didn’t reveal any secret features, saying that they want to keep them under wraps for fear that Redmond would copy them. Outside Time Machine Apple didn’ reveal much else. Why? What if Apple wasn’t sure that they could actually finish the so called secret features prior to a spring release? What if these secret features have become stable enough, but no quite ready for prime time? A four month delay may be what Apple needs to finish it off the so called secret features. Apple’s software engineers have come to the conclusion that they can deliver a product that was intended to be feature complete , but just needs more time. Thats why no secret features were revealed. If I’m right, Apple will reveal these features at WWDC 07 in June.
April 20th, 2007 at 4:29 pm
The gist of this article is something that I’m concerned about with ANY company, not just Apple. If a company becomes too large and spreads itself out into too many directions, it will never properly excel in any of those areas.
Microsoft is a perfect example of such gluttony. Microsoft wasn’t content with taking over operating systems and office software, but they also decided to extend into TV, hardware, server systems, games & console, music players, etc., etc. Due to their vast marketing power, influence, and bank account, they can force themselves into pretty much any market they desire. The XBox has done OK, as long as you don’t mind that it has lost BILLIONS of dollars. How many other companies could sustain such a business by losing billions of dollars? Perhaps it would have been a wonderful thing for Microsoft to have been broken up. It might have caused some people to truly re-evaluate a lot of the MS products and decide if the product was really worth keeping or not.
Any company, including Apple, should look at themselves and see if what they are doing is the right thing? Should they try things just because they can? Is it best that Apple is developing Final Cut Studio, or would it be better handled by a third party? What if the iPod division created its own company?
While a larger company will have more resources to put into their projects, stretching into far too many directions is not so different from a smaller company. A company with 5 employees won’t be able to sufficiently sustain 10 projects, nearly as well as they could by maintaining and improving upon just 2 or 3.
Hopefully, Apple just misjudged how long it would take Leopard to get out the door. Yes, there has been a several month delay, but at least it isn’t suffering the delay problems of Vista, Copland, or even the first version of Mac OS X.