Walt Mossberg

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg

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Product Delays: Who Cares?

One of the big tech news stories of the month was Apple’s announcement that it was delaying the public release of the new Leopard version of its Mac OS X operating system from June to October. The company said the delay was caused by the need to divert engineering talent from Leopard to Apple’s other planned spring release, the iPhone, which Steve Jobs’ minions assured the world was on track for a late June release. In order to ensure Leopard’s quality, Apple said, it needed more time because it had fewer people available to work on the project.

Still, the Leopard delay caused consternation among some fanatical members of the Mac cult, and caused Apple’s stock price to fall. Something similar happened to Microsoft last year when it delayed the release of Vista, the latest version of its Windows operating system, which finally emerged January 30. Microsoft also attributed the delay to a desire to make the product better, and it did so at higher cost, because it angered the Windows PC makers, who had expected new Vista machines to sell in the 2006 holiday season.

I didn’t bash either company for these delays, because they are non-events for most of the mainstream, non-technical users for whom I write. Most people aren’t desperately waiting for the next version of some computer, or gadget, or software product, or Web site. They just want the stuff to work right. And, if a company delays a product to make sure it will work better upon release, I’m fine with that — especially when the product is as important as a new version of an operating system.

Obviously, such delays may cause concern among investors, or stock analysts, or businesses whose own products may be tied to some feature of the new release.

But, for average users, quality comes before some arbitrary ship date. No matter how cool or useful Leopard’s new “Time Machine” file recovery feature may prove to be, average users aren’t sitting around dreaming about it. They have lives. They fantasize about sex, or money, or maybe world peace, not a new feature for their computers.

So, my advice to all the Mac fanatics out there is to calm down. Dream about winning the lottery, so you can buy a $499 iPhone. You know you want one, even if you don’t need one and can’t afford it.


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