Waiting for an Apple product release can often seem a bit like Waiting for Godot: there's a lot of talk, a lot of speculation, and no real understanding of what's going on behind the scenes. But in terms of the forthcoming release of iOS 4.2, we have some hints that its arrival may be sooner rather than later.
When Apple promises to deliver something in a specific time period - November, for example - experienced company watchers usually assume that it will come in the last possible moments of the specified time period. But that's not necessarily the case with iOS 4.2, for which Apple has been actively laying the groundwork. On Friday, the company dropped two indications that the update for Apple's mobile operating system is imminent.
The first was iTunes 10.1, an update to the media software that added support for 4.2's AirPlay media-streaming - one of the 4.2 update's marquee features - and is required for syncing devices running iOS 4.2.
The other clue is that Apple released a second Golden Master (GM) build of the 4.2 software to developers. The GM is usually the version that usually means software is ready for distribution, where all the known bugs and kinks are squashed and ironed out. So, clearly, the fact that Apple released a second GM tells us that something wasn't caught in the original release, which showed up back on 1 November. The GM that Apple issued today is also specific to the iPad, bearing the build number 8C134b, compared to the 8C134 of the first GM (which hasn't changed for iPhone and iPod touch users).
One potential reason for the second GM is a reported bug with the iPad's Wi-Fi; some developers using the first GM of 4.2 have reported that the device repeatedly drops network connections. If true, that's certainly a significant enough problem to merit a second GM.
Some sites have reported this as a "delay" of 4.2's release--that may be true as far as Apple's internal schedule for the software, but since the company has publicly only said that the update would arrive in November, the point is moot. From an end-user perspective, we're still just killing time alongside Estragon and Vladimir.