When Should A Product Ship?

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According to an article published by Fast Company, Apple is in a "panic" with software issues plaguing the new iPhone 8 (which, by my count is the 11th iPhone released by Apple). And, because this is Apple and few people have a real sense of perspective when it comes to Jobs and Wozniak's Cupertino love child, it has people wondering all sorts of the things. But I think there's a bigger question; when should a product ship and in what state?

According to the report, the issues lie with the software that make a number of new features such as wireless charging, facial recognition and a revised TouchID sensor that will be under the display unreliable.

When faced with a similar issue recently - the new Portrait mode that was introduced with the iPhone 7 Plus - they chose to ship the hardware and enable the feature with a software update. That was the centrepiece of iOS 10.1.

Over the last few years, we've become accustomed to a new iPhone release during the fourth quarter of each year. So, it makes sense to expect the same this year.

But let's not forget there has not been any official announcement about new hardware or a release date. So, if Apple chose to hold back for a few weeks, they would not be technically running late as they haven't declared, a schedule.

So here are the choices.

  1. Apple ships a new iPhone, in the timeframe most people expect, and the software is buggy but gets fixed a couple of weeks later with an update.
  2. Apple ships a less buggy iPhone, in the timeframe most people expect, but not all the new features are activated. Software updates will be issued as the new features are made reliable.
  3. Apple holds back and releases a feature-complete and (as much as it's possible) bug free version of the new iPhone.
  4. Tim Cook and Jony Ive sit back in their respective offices and laugh at all of us for expecting Apple would do anything vaguely predictable.

What would you do? If you're a developer, what advice would you offer? Wait till it's all ready, or ship an incomplete product and add features as the software is ready?


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