Apple's not a computer company? Please

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As you might expect, the news that Apple was delaying Leopard’s release, apparently to focus its engineering resources on the iPhone, has generated some fervent discussion in our forums. Among those comments—120 and counting, as of this writing—there seems to be a common sentiment among those who are especially upset about this development (or, ha ha, lack thereof): Apple has stopped being a computer company, and Thursday’s Leopard announcement proves it.

In my opinion, that claim is both overwrought and overstated.

Apple has at various times sold printers. And scanners. And digital cameras. And PDAs. And a game console. And more. Apart from a few years at the company’s infancy, Apple has never been solely a computer company. And I’m sure that many times over the past 20 years, OS development has been affected in some way by the development of other products. The major difference with the Leopard announcement is the fact that it was, well, announced .

More important, for a number of years now, Apple has been working on an interconnected but diverse range of products: desktops, laptops, servers, home entertainment devices, iPods, phones. And we’ll surely see many other “not a computer” devices in the future. The key here is that most of these products run a version of Mac OS X—even the Apple TV and iPhone. So if, as Apple claims, development of Leopard was put on hold for a bit so as to clean up Mac OS X on the iPhone, it’s not as if OS X has been put on a shelf somewhere—the company is still working on Mac OS X . Work on any of these devices is likely to benefit the platform—the Mac platform—as a whole.

(And don’t forget all the new and updated Mac models Apple has released in the past year or so: iMacs, Mac minis, Mac Pros, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and Xserves —Apple still seems like a computer company to me—even if “Computer” isn’t officially part of its name anymore.)

Finally, it’s also important to keep in mind that what a “computer” is, and is used for, has changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years, and will be changing even faster in the years to come. Apple is one of the few companies that really gets this, and has been working to integrate its products—including its most valuable and strategic asset, Mac OS X—into people’s lives in ways that other “computer” vendors haven’t. It’s no coincidence that Apple is recording record profits while many other major computer vendors are seeing revenues fall.

Does it stink that Leopard’s release has been pushed back a few months? Yep, especially to us geeks who want the latest and greatest—and want it yesterday. But Tiger is still the best OS out there (sorry, Vista) and will work as well in July, August, and September as it does today. And I wouldn’t worry that Apple is “no longer a computer company” just because the iPhone has turned out to be a minor speed bump in Leopard’s development. After all, the iPhone is really just the smallest Mac OS X computer ever, and its svelte profile shouldn’t slow Leopard down all that much.

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