Leap Motion said today that it will delay shipping its Leap 3D motion controller to preorder customers until July 22. The startup had said previously that it planned on shipping next month. Retail partners will make the product available to other customers "shortly after" that date.
In a conference call, CEO Michael Buckwald said that although he felt that the company could have gotten Leaps into people's hands by the original schedule, that time frame wouldn't have allowed time for adequate testing. As such, Leap Motion plans a beta testing period starting in early June. The beta test will evaluate the product "across the board."
In the call, Buckwald said that the company had always planned on having a beta test, but that it simply fell behind and decided after "wrestling internally" with the issue that it would be better to delay shipping in order to ensure that the product provides the best-possible user experience.
Buckwald assured reporters on the call that this will be the one and only shipping delay, and that there had been no production problems. Indeed, he made a point of saying that it already has 600,000 units in warehouses that are ready to go. Still, "as a company, we always said we wouldn't release the product until it met our expectations," Buckwald said, "and our expectations are extremely high."
The San Francisco company's gesture-control system measures users' movements to an accuracy of a hundredth of a millimeter. The $80 thumb drive-sized device plugs into a computer's USB port. Leap Motion also has signed a deal to embed its technology into certain Hewlett-Packard devices, though neither company has yet said which products would be included in that pact.
In addition, Leap Motion has cemented deals to bundle its controller with Asus PCs, and to sell it in Best Buy stores and at Bestbuy.com, as well as on its own Web site. And more than 10,000 developers have gotten their hands on the technology and have begun working on apps that will be available through the company's app store, known as Airspace.
Today's news is a setback for a company that has until now had only positive news.
In a letter about the shipping delay that Leap Motion is sending to preorder customers, Buckwald wrote: "This is not a decision we take lightly. There are hundreds of thousands of people in over 150 countries who have preordered Leap devices, some as long as a year ago. These people are part of our community and there is nothing more important to us than getting them devices as quickly as possible."
Buckwald also said in his letter to preorder customers that:
We've manufactured over 600,000 devices and delivered 12,000 Leaps to amazing developers who are building applications that let people do things that just wouldn't have been possible before. These developers have given us great feedback that we've used to make huge improvements to the stability and polish of the product. We're really proud of Leap as both a company and a product.
The reality is we very likely could have hit the original ship date. But it wouldn't have left time for comprehensive testing. This will come in the form of a beta test that will start in June. We will give the 12k developers who currently have Leap devices access to the feature complete product including OS interaction (today developers only have access to the SDK). We will also invite some people who are not developers to join the beta test.
Ultimately, the only way we felt 100 percent confident we could deliver a truly magical product that would do justice to this new form of interaction, was to push the date so we would have more time for a larger, more diverse beta test.