Imagining iOS 5

Instead of keeping to the last 3 years of tradition and showing off iOS 5 at an April preview event and releasing it with iPhone 5 this June, could Apple instead preview it at WWDC and only release it this fall? That's the rumor TechCrunch's MG Siegler has posted tonight:

  • iOS 5 will launch in the fall and will be a major revamp of the OS.
  • It could well be previewed at WWDC, it just won’t be released then.
  • The iOS 5 launch is also likely to coincide with the release of a new type of iPad, which we previously reported on.
  • The new iOS will be heavily built around the cloud, and we could see several new services launch from Apple that take advantage of this.
  • Yes, one of those is very likely a “music locker” service. There is also a fall launch aim for this, during Apple’s annual music-themed event.
  • But much of the cloud stuff will first be talked about at WWDC, Apple’s developer event which will take place in June.
  • One of the new cloud service elements is likely a location service that focuses on finding friends and family members.
  • As we said yesterday, OS X Lion is still on pace for a summer release — some of the new cloud components are likely to be baked into it as well.

While anything is possible, this doesn't sound very much like Apple. Release numbers are marketing driven, not engineering driven (which is why internal release numbers aren't always the same as external, like Windows 7 actually being Windows 6.1 and Apple TV 4.2.1 actually being Apple TV 4.3.1).

Competition is heating up with Google still iterating Android at a breakneck pace, webOS hitting 2.x and 3.0 this year, and the first BlackBerry QNX-based device shipping next month. Apple going 18 months between iOS refreshes would be perceived as falling behind.

Sure Apple will want to have quite a few "tent pole" features to tout for iOS 5 to be certain, but if any one of them -- even cloud connectivity -- isn't ready for the spring there's nothing to stop Apple from rolling out a less ambitious iOS 5 in April anyway. Remember, there were rumors iPad 2 would be delayed and it wasn't (it just didn't get a Retina Display.)

(And yes, that does mean that, just like there are rumors of an iPad 3 coming this fall with Retina Display, there may well be iOS 5.1 (or, hey, iOS 6!) rumors for the fall as well.)

So what do you think? Will Apple make us wait an extra 3 months for iOS 5?