Lingering Leopard

There was strong reaction today to the news that Apple will delay Leopard by a few months as a result of shifting resources to the iPhone. I’m quoted on Macworld.com speculating that the delay might be due to contractual obligations between AT&T and Apple, but I no longer believe that that could be a factor. In any case, as Tim Bajarin  says in the article, four months isn’t a big delay for an operating system cycle.

Elsewhere on the site, Dan Frakes calls for calm among Apple’s frantic fans who think that the Leopard delay is the beginning of the end for the Mac. (Remember when such evangelists would have called for the head of someone who suggested such a thing during Apple’s struggles in the mid-’90s?) Citing the breadth of Apple’s Mac lineup and that the notion of what a “computer” is has changed, he rightly calls such concerns “overwrought and overstated.”

But Dan’s reasoning that Apple has long offered more than just computers, implying that little has changed, is also a bit oversimplified. None of the other Mac peripherals that he cites, such as monitors, printers and PDAs, were as strategic a cash cow as the iPod. And few, other than Newton, were platforms the way the iPhone and arguably AppleTV is. (For the record, Apple never sold the Apple Pippin, except to Bandai.)

Simply put, these are higher-growth opportunities than StyleWriters ever were and allow Apple to reach far beyond the Mac installed base. That said, Apple’s Mac business is not only broad, but it’s very healthy, As today’s iPhone announcement reinforced, Apple’s “three-screen” strategy has Mac OS X at the heart of it, and the Mac is not only the premiere device for that software, but serves as the critical “second screen.”

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