One of the announcements that was not discussed during Steve Jobs’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote address on Tuesday morning was the forthcoming release of Snow Leopard, a maintenance update to Mac OS X scheduled for release next year.
Developers welcomed the news of Snow Leopard for a variety of reasons. Some want some time to focus on writing iPhone software and not have to worry about any new Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that Apple may release with a major operating system update.
Other developers were happy that it will open the door for Apple to fix some bugs in the existing APIs, which will make it easier for developers to write applications for the Mac. Of course, the time also gives developers a chance to clean out any existing bugs in their own code.
"Apple put so many great APIs out there with Leopard that developers haven’t had a chance to fully take advantage of them yet," said Jeff Ganyard, vice president of engineering for MacSpeech. "This gives us some time to look at everything again."
Kevin Ford, president of telephony software company Parliant, said features aren’t as important to him this time around. "I don’t feel wanting for anything in the existing OS," said Ford. "I’m happy to have no new features if it means better stability."
There’s another reason why Apple’s timing for a maintenance release of OS X, rather than a complete overhaul, is good. The company’s developers are preoccupied with iPhone development, and Apple has been working hard on the iPhone SDK.
As the iPhone gains more traction in the mobile market, Apple will continue to draw new developers to the platform — which makes it important that Apple has the best iPhone SDK it can deliver.
Apple’s move with Snow Leopard isn’t causing any concern from industry analysts, either. Long-time Apple watcher Ross Rubin, director of analysis at market-research firm NPD Group, doesn’t see any urgency for Apple to do anything different.
"Competitively, there’s no urgency as Microsoft continues to struggle marketing Vista and is beginning to point to a distant Windows 7," said Rubin. "A new media architecture [QuickTime X] may be helpful as consumers embrace more high-definition content and camcorders."
However, developers aren’t the only ones Apple has to convince that Snow Leopard is a good strategic move for the company. It will have to convince consumers too.
"It will be more challenging as Apple has heavily promoted feature updates — and some speed improvements — since the initial release of Mac OS X," said Rubin. "Even Apple’s statement positions Snow Leopard as more of a foundation for future operating systems."