Why Apple shifted coders to iPhone

Anyone looking for proof of the strategic importance of iPhone to Apple doesn’t have to look beyond Apple’s press release page — the company is delaying the next version of its Operating System, code-named Leopard, by four months, and instead shifting resources to iPhone, now slated for late June 2007 release.

The press release issued by Apple points to a weak link in Steve Jobs’ grand design for global digital domination: not enough minions.

However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price — we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned.

The future of Apple is devices. Non-computing consumer electronic type devices are much less powerful than traditional computers, and need programmers who are thrifty in their code and skillful enough to squeeze the very last pico-hertz of performance out of lower-power embedded processors.

It is even more important in the mobile phone world, where poorly written code could simply negate the best efforts of hardware engineers. Apple doesn’t want to do that — it has a beautiful device, with an elegant user interface. However, lethargic applications and poor battery life could destroy user experience and chill the demand for even the hottest phone on the market. Apple historically has been home to coders who squeezed every drop out of those low-powered Motorola chips.

Typically, OS upgrades have provided a financial boost to the company’s profit margins, but this shuffle indicated that Apple is glad to forego those profits and instead opt for its next big cash cow – iPhone.

Now we can smirk, and point to the fact, Apple did drop Computer from its name after all.

PS: This delay should stop those Vista-delay jokes, because those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones.

Photo by Niall Kennedy via Flickr.