Are Apple's hardware releases increasingly tied to software?
We've known for a while now that iPhone 5 won't be coming out this month, as it has for the last four years, but this fall, when iOS 5 is also scheduled to ship. Whether one delayed the other, or factors such as Verizon contracts, component shortages, engineering hours, or some combination of factors we may never know, but now rumors suggest new Macs are similarly on hold, this time waiting on OS X Lion before they ship.
Steve Jobs has always stressed that Apple is a software company, and has several times quoted Alan Kay's "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware". They make beautiful boxes out of glass and aluminum and stainless steel and plastic, but as recently as WWDC 2011, Jobs called software their "soul".
iPhone has always been tied to major new releases of iOS (previously iPhone OS), the two launching together with precise regularity. (iPod touch has almost always coincided with an iOS x.1 release, and iPad launched with the unique-to-iPad iOS 3.2, and iPad 2 came with the more modest iOS 4.3).
New Macs, however, were seldom if ever tied to new OS X releases. Users who bought new Macs on or around OS X launches would get a free upgrade offer or a DVD in the box, or something... less than coordinated.
But MacBook Airs with ThunderBolt ports and Sandy Bridge processors might just be on hold for Lion now.
Apple hasn't always had luck with big, coordinated releases. They -- and their servers -- struggled under the same-day iPhone 3G, iOS 2, MobileMe, and App Store release back in 2008. But they have kept their mobile releases in a row.
There was little chance we'd see iPhone 5 announced with WWDC as shipping in June with iOS 4.3, upgradable to iOS 5 in the fall, and if rumors of Macs waiting on Lion pan out, could Apple be moving to an even more tightly integrated hardware/software model? Could we see a day where OS X and iOS releases are coordinated so features that bridge both, like iCloud, "just work" as desktop and mobile both come on line?