Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
Earlier this month, concerns among Apple fans and glasses among Apple-haters were alike raised as word came from the Cupertino castle that it would miss its self-imposed deadline for Leopard by four months. Rather than deliver Leopard (perhaps code-naming it Cheetah would have sped up development?) at its Worldwide Developer Conference in June as originally planned, the next major version of Mac OS would ship in October. The culprit was pegged as the iPhone, Apple's self-described revolutionary handset that has already changed some of the rules of the wireless business even as it has yet to change any customers' experiences.
Apple pointed to the sophistication of the iPhone's software, a mobile version of Mac OS X, dismissing any concerns that the phone's operating system is an expedient port. Mac fans should take heart, though. The iPhone's short-term ill effect on the Mac could translate into long-term benefit as Apple's developers may pick up optimization techniques working with the handset's small memory and storage footprint, perhaps fueling its long-speculated ultraportable PC.
Indeed, a four-month delay is not serious in the lifecycle of a modern desktop operating system and seems like an extra weekend in the context of the multi-year delay from the original launch timeframe of Windows Vista. And while Vista may have been more of an overhaul than any of Apple's recent dot-upgrade operating systems, we don't yet know what may be some of Leopard's most compelling features. What we do know is that Time Machine is not yet at the point where Apple could have used it to go back before the iPhone project got started and start working on Leopard four months earlier.