Mac OS X 10.6.5 Released, but Where's AirPrint?

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.5, but strangely, the update doesn't include the promised support for printer sharing with the AirPrint feature of iOS 4.2, which is expected to become available any day now. Is this latest example of Apple's failure to deliver on its public promises a disturbing trend, or just another regrettable exception to its string of successes in the consumer market?

As rumors had predicted, Apple released today the latest update to Snow Leopard, but without the AirPrint support that was supposed to make it possible for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad to make use of printers shared from Mac computers.

Mac OS X 10.6.5 is available from Apple’s Software Update service; it’s 517MB as a delta upgrade from the previous 10.6.4 release, and 680MB as a “combo” update for any Mac running Snow Leopard. It includes a number of general bugfixes and improvements, including the addition of SSL support for file transfers with the iDisk component of Apple’s MobileMe service, and RAW image support for newer digital cameras.

But the big question for anyone with an iPhone or iPad is: Where’s AirPrint? This feature, which Apple has touted since announcing it in early September as a way to make existing printers usable with iOS devices running the due-any-day-now iOS 4.2, has mysteriously vanished from the update. According to reports from those familiar with the iOS 4.2 golden master, which became available to registered Apple developers on Nov. 1, all mention of AirPrint sharing on Mac OS X and Windows machines was scrubbed from the release notes.

That’s a shame, because there are only a handful of output devices that offer built-in support for AirPrint; for example, printer behemoth Hewlett-Packard only has five models (at the last count) that work with the iOS feature. In essence, this makes AirPrint all but meaningless for most users of iPads and iPhones, especially those wanting to make use of it in a business environment.

This surprise cancellation by Apple of a much-ballyhooed feature of iOS 4.2 follows on the heels of the ongoing debacle with the white iPhone 4, which has repeatedly been delayed from its initial targeted availability of June 26, and is now completely off the product page, in a Kremlinesque rewriting of the iPhone lineup.

I’m beginning to wonder whether the thought leader in consumer computing has developed the deplorable habit of hoping we’ll ignore when it fails to deliver on its promised product plans. But, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to install the Mac OS X update and see how well it behaves.