Imagine yourself at an Apple keynote event. A special, one-off launch for the newest version of Mac OS X. You see the familiar format: Phil Schiller and a couple of other Apple execs run through the successful sales numbers. Then they announce the new product, and then they work their way through a deck of pitch-perfect keynote slides.
It seems familiar, right? Only now imagine that you are alone. This presentation is for one person: you. This bizarro scenario is just what happened to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber last week when Apple briefed him on Mountain Lion.
Gruber wasn’t the only one. Schiller and company spent the week speaking to high-profile writers, instead of holding an event. Why? As Gruber writes: “Schiller tells me they’re doing some things differently now.”
It’s not just the lack of a big event that is news, nor even the slew of iOS-like features in Mountain Lion. It’s that OS X is switching to a one-per-year launch cycle, with a major new version annually like iOS. Clearly, despite the successes of the iPad in the last two years, Apple is still dead serious about the Mac.
Why these miniature non-events? Gruber’s take is that Apple doesn’t want to squander its big launch events. Too much of anything can get monotonous, even Apple keynotes. With the expected iPad launch next month, the iBooks event last month, and probably new MacBook Pro and Apple TV hardware coming later this year, Apple wants to stay razor-focused on these products.
On the other hand, once-a-year launches mean that developers need to get beta versions fast and often, and as Gruber also points out, Apple wants people to know it is still serious about the desktop.
But the very weirdest thing is the complete lack of leaks or rumors. Nothing. It’s not just that we didn’t hear about the date, but the name, the features, everything has stayed secret.
Apple might be doing things differently now Steve Jobs has gone, but some things appear to have remained very much the same.