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Does WWDC hint at later iPhone 5, iOS 5 releases?

Gregg Keizer, Computerworld | March 28, 2011
Although Apple today announced that its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will begin June 6, analysts are starting to question whether the company will introduce its next iPhone at the event.

Gartenberg read Apple's WWDC announcement as an indication that the event will focus on software, and eschew what he called "this bit or that bit of shiny new hardware."

Other experts saw the tea leaves differently.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said that the supply chain problems caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, may have prompted Apple to push back the launch of the next iPhone as well as iOS 5.

"The Japan story changes things," argued Gottheil. "We just don't know what is on the critical path for the iPhone that's sourced out of Japan."

According to analysts at IHS iSuppli, a significant amount of the world's silicon wafer production comes out of Japanese factories, as well as an overwhelming majority of the material used to make printed circuit boards.

"There's a possibility that we will see some delay in availability of the iPhone 5," said Gottheil, referring to the muddled situation in Japan.

Brian Marshall, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., didn't buy that. "Apple will still launch the next iPhone in June or July," Marshall said today, talking about the usual summer window Apple has used.

But the picture becomes even cloudier if Apple doesn't deliver iOS 5 alongside the iPhone 5. Would Apple still launch a new iPhone even if it doesn't have a new operating system?

Gottheil thought so. "If the new iPhone is just lighter and faster, and with a better antenna, there's no OS requirement for that," he said.

"And it's software, man. Stuff happens," Gottheil said, talking about a possible delay of iOS 5 due to technical issues.

Apple has pushed back software releases before. In 2007, it delayed Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, from a mid-summer to an October launch, saying that it needed to divert engineering resources from its OS X team to keep the first iPhone's ship date on track.


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