Rumors of OS X 10.9's "delay" are unfounded

Recently the blogosphere has begun to coalesce around a common idea: OS X 10.9 is going to be delayed. Balderdash, I say. OS X 10.9 isn't delayed, because Apple hasn't announced a ship date for it. In fact, Apple hasn't said much publicly about iOS 7 or OS X 10.9, except a passing comment from Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, who mentioned that Apple would "get new versions of iOS and OS X" into the hands of developers at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco in June.

A month ago John Gruber told readers of his Daring Fireball blog that Apple had pulled engineers off OS X projects and reallocated them to iOS 7, instead. More recently some industry analysts, pundits and mainstream media journalists covering the Apple beat have spun Gruber's earlier comments, which explains the popular momentum towards a "delay" with OS X 10.9.

Accepting on face value for the moment that Apple has reallocated engineering resources from OS X to iOS, it makes perfect sense: iOS is the company's main source of revenue right now, and it should be the primary focus of the company's software engineers.

It's also not a very big deal: Apple engineering is task-focused. Apple management can easily and quickly redeploy a team to a higher-priority project without sacrificing efficiency.

I've seen some editorials concerned about the reallocation, assuming that this will be a repeat of Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard's" release, when Leopard was legitimately delayed for months: Apple had already announced plans in 2007 to release 10.5 at WWDC, then in April abruptly changed its mind, citing development of the then-nascent iPhone as the reason for the delay. Leopard did ship in 2007, but it went from June to late October.

After Leopard was released, Apple released two updates to the Mac operating system every other summer: Snow Leopard appeared in 2009 and Lion appeared in 2011. Then in February 2012, Schiller told Gruber during a clandestine meeting in New York that Apple was switching to an annual release schedule for OS X. Mountain Lion followed that summer, and the expectation remains that Apple will release another big cat in 2013.

Understand that Apple was in a profoundly different place in 2007. At that point, the Mac was Apple's revenue generator. iPhone was brand new. It was a major engineering initiative for the company. Apple has had six years to improve its internal processes.

If that's the case, why would Apple pull engineers off of OS X to work on iOS? Last autumn Tim Cook made significant changes to Apple's senior management with the ouster of Scott Forstall and the appointment of Jony Ive as head of Human Interface. iOS 7 wasn't created out of whole cloth under Ive's watch - software development at Apple exists in a continuum - and sources say there's a lot that Ive wants to adjust and retool before putting in the hands of developers in June.

What's more, Mountain Lion has been a fairly stable release, and Mac users (and people in the financial sector who track Apple's efforts) aren't clamoring for a lot of changes. Customers are clearly expecting changes on the hardware side - anticipation is running high for more Macs with Retina displays, for example, based on our recent poll. But it seems that at least part of Apple's focus with 10.9 will be to shore up "power user" features, as opposed to the significant UI changes Ive is allegedly spearheading for iOS.

So whether OS X 10.9 will ship this summer or this fall, it shouldn't matter to the Macintosh's bottom line. And fall seems likely, based on Tim Cook's own comments during Apple's quarterly earnings call last month.

"Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014," Cook said.

Until then, enjoy your Mac the way it is.