Mark Gurman on Apple’s OS Development Strategy

Mark Gurman, in a solo-bylined piece for Bloomberg:

These features were delayed after Apple Inc. concluded it needed its own major upgrade in the way the company develops and introduces new products. Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year.

This is the best story from Gurman in a while (see below), but I’m not so sure the above is a new strategy so much as a tacit admission of what’s actually been going on the last few years. Take iMessage in the Cloud — it was supposed to ship with iOS 11 (and I think MacOS 10.13) in the fall, but still hasn’t shipped. It’s in the iOS 11.3 beta, but even if 11.3 ships this month, it’ll be nearly 6 months late. It sounds to me like Apple is just being realistic, acknowledging that some projects can’t be finished in a year. I don’t expect any fewer new features than usual in the iOS 12 demo at WWDC — but perhaps more of them will actually ship in the fall, rather than being delayed until point updates (like iMessages in the Cloud, Apple Pay Cash, and AirPlay 2 last year — two of which still haven’t shipped).

[Update: What I mean by the above is that Apple always has more features in a new version of iOS or MacOS than they have time to demo on stage. They always have those slides with all the new stuff they didn’t have time to mention. I think they’ll still have 8-10 tentpole new features for iOS and MacOS to announce and demo at WWDC this year. From the outside, I don’t think it’ll seem like anything has changed from the last few years. But some of the features that in previous years might have been squeezed in with an aggressive schedule for inclusion this year are being postponed until next year.]

The other takeaway from Gurman’s report is that it sounds like Apple senior management is aware that they’ve taken a hit on public perception of Apple software quality in recent years.

But the feature-packed upgrades place huge demands on Apple’s beleaguered engineers.

It’s good to see beleaguered back in the Apple news story vernacular.

Some actual scoops about what is forthcoming:

Also in the works for this year: a redesigned version of Apple’s stock-tracking app and updated version of Do Not Disturb that will give users more options to automatically reject phone calls or silence notifications. Apple is also working to more deeply integrate Siri into the iPhone’s search view, redesign the interface used to import photos into an iPad on the go and make it possible for several people at once to play augmented reality games.

Monday, 12 February 2018