I admit it, I am not really in any sort of online community and I don't really interact with many of the people I follow and / or read about for the news, especially in the Apple ecosystem. Not for any real reason outside of the fact that I don't really state what I think in public much. Sure, there are one off jokes and some times people end up giving me a Twitter "like" or something similar, but otherwise not much is involved in my being a member of the community outside of observing from afar and using it as a lens to the tech industry as a whole for myself.
So it is with this lens that I have been watching a lot of different people comment on Apple's development lifecycle for their operating systems. Obviously, I know far less than many commenting, but I feel like one thing is consistently missed, Apple doesn't take just a year to develop features.
Take for example, from Daring Fireball:
I’m not so sure the above is a new strategy so much as a tacit admission of what’s actually been going on the last few years. Take iMessage in the Cloud — it was supposed to ship with iOS 11 (and I think MacOS 10.13) in the fall, but still hasn’t shipped. It’s in the iOS 11.3 beta, but even if 11.3 ships this month, it’ll be nearly 6 months late. It sounds to me like Apple is just being realistic, acknowledging that some projects can’t be finished in a year.
I would say this is the opposite, Apple already knows that most projects cannot be finished in a year. It is the people covering them in the press that seem to ignore this fact.
Just thinking about some recent features, Apple has discussed the lengthy process in takes to build things. They mentioned the multi-year process behind FaceID during the launch of that. They mentioned the multi-year process behind their new file system and the testing of how to roll that out across millions of devices seamlessly. I bet the multi-tasking capabilities of iOS have been in work for more than just a year. We already know work on Swift was done well before they announced it and it is still not done, and never will be. This doesn't seem like a company that is going to just block off development time to a yearly calendar.
Sure each year on stage at WWDC they end up presenting yearly feature releases. But they don't say that the development of these features just started after the last release. These features have been in on the roadmap for years and had their importance increased or decreased based on external factors.
What Apple has is a yearly release cycle. (And even that isn't true given the large number of patches and dot-releases they have during a year). Not a yearly development cycle. I am not one to say Apple gets a raw deal from their own press, but they do in this instance. The press covering them loves the feature releases, and since they happen every year, they assume the development cycle is always that long. It isn't. It may be four years, or even as little as a month for small things that turn out to be big. But Apple kicks that into a "release" for marketing purposes.