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  • The Leopard Report: Everything You Expected is Wrong!

    April 12th, 2007

    You know, it's very rare for Apple to announce a serious delay in a new product these days. More often than not, deadlines are met, give or take a few weeks, or the things ship early. Take the transition to Intel processors as an example of an amazingly speedy migration.

    However, after weeks and weeks of silence on the Leopard front, Apple has admitted that it's just not coming together quite as expected. So while Mac developers will see a feature-complete version in June, the final version won't ship until October.

    This confirms a published report that appeared a few weeks back for which I expressed complete skepticism and I maintained that Leopard would probably ship by June. However, with rumblings from some developers that prerelease versions of Mac OS 10.5 were incredibly undercooked and bug-ridden, I suppose the news should come as no surprise.

    So what happened? Well, officially at least, Apple blames the iPhone, that they had to move some developers over to complete the phone and have it ready for a June release. Apparently, meeting that deadline required extra engineering effort, or at least that's what Apple says.

    The official statement expresses it this way: "While Leopard's features will be complete by then, we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones."

    Now I can see where the conspiracy theorists among you will claim that Apple is just making up stories as excuse for unexpected obstacles they're actually facing with Leopard's development. Maybe their claim that they had to borrow engineers from the Leopard project to finish up the iPhone just isn't true, but they needed to say something that sounded plausible to the skeptics in admitting that it wasn't quite coming together as they expected.

    Maybe, maybe not.

    Indeed, I'm inclined to cut Apple a little slack here. You see, they don't have near the resources of Microsoft, and that Apple does so well with their existing staff is considered just incredible by some. And, lest we forget, Microsoft has a far worse problem getting products out on time. I'm still waiting for "Cairo," which they announced and postponed regularly in the 1990s, before they stopped mentioning it altogether.

    Actually, I think that there's another strategic reason for announcing the Leopard delay now. You see, there are already published reports that some people may be holding off on buying a new Mac in anticipation of having one ship with Leopard preloaded in just a few weeks. Now that such a thing isn't going to happen, they can make their purchases without an imminent operating system upgrade to consider.

    Does this mean that you should wait till October to buy a new Mac? No, I fail to see any reason for that. If you need a new computer now, whatever you gain in increased efficiency and productivity will more than compensate for that $129 or so that you will save by waiting.

    I realize some of you are former Windows users, accustomed to the agony of upgrading to a new version of Microsoft's operating system. Well, let me assure you folks that installing a new version of Mac OS X is nowhere near as uncertain and troublesome. Yes, problems can and do occur at times, particularly with an older Mac where you might have already done a few upgrades of one sort or another.

    But the "Archive and Install" option, which I presume will continue in some fashion in Leopard, is a great way to perform a clean upgrade and retain the key preferences and desktop layout you have lovingly configured.

    Yes, there are ways in which I think Archive and Install can be improved. Right now, you are forced to reinstall printer drivers that aren't standard issue, third-party input device drivers and so on and so forth. This can complicate the process of getting your new system up and running.

    Maybe there ought to be some way to further customize this clean installation process, so you can retain these components and get back to work faster. But I might as well add that to the next chapter of my ongoing Leopard wish list, now that there's a lot more time to speculate on what the final feature set might be.



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    22 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Everything You Expected is Wrong!”

    1. John says:

      Well, Apple has just confirmed what I said at the beginning of march on this very forum. I said I was holding my purchase of a Mac Pro until the 8 cores ships and since they delayed it, now I'm waiting for leopard too. I said that I expected Apple to show Leopard in June but ship it later, although, I was expecting an August to September time frame for shipping, not October.

      http://www.technightowl.com/2007/03/16/the-leopard-report-playing-the-great-waiting-game/#comments (first comment, last paragraph).

      Anybody who's familiar with Apple's development patterns could easily have predicted this. Usually, three months prior to the final release, the beta releases to developers would be coming fast and at much shorter intervals. This close to release Apple used to deliver a new build every week or so and then a month or so before release they declare a gold master and then nothing gets out until release.

      This time, three months before their projected release, they're still coming out with a new build for developers at a six weeks interval. That's way too slow. That happens when they're still in the late alpha stages.

      When I heard the news yesterday, it came as no surprise, no surprise at all. The only thought that I had was 'Well, just as I expected'.

    2. Ben Rosenthal says:

      Not everything. At least it's still prowling in the spring. Did you read Unsanity's post?

    3. Tim Harness says:

      If leopard's released any time in the next two years, it'll beat vista. To be fair, the Steve's minions only have to write for a few machines (Maybe we'll know how few in june.).

    4. Andrew says:

      You'll see Cairo at about the same time you its competition from Apple, AKA Copeland.

    5. You’ll see Cairo at about the same time you its competition from Apple, AKA Copeland.

      Nobody will live that long :)

      Peace,
      Gene

    6. Jim says:

      Gene,
      Leopard has had me frustrated ever since its "unveiling" at WWDC '06. All of the unnecessary swipes at Microsoft - "Redmond, start your photocopiers" - and "secret features" were just too much. And now, nearly a year later, NONE of the secret features has been even remotely revealed, the developer builds of Leopard have been constant near-disaster, and Vista is finally out, and it ain't too bad.
      Of the revealed Leopard features, only Time Machine looks even slightly interesting. Meanwhile, the Finder remains just as lame and slow and flaky as it has been since Panther. (Oh, yea, I saw the latest developer release gives the Finder the "uni" look. Well, woo-freakin-who.)
      I'm taking care of 105 Macs here at a newspaper, so spare the flames. I'm no troll. But Leopard has been mismanaged from a PR and engineering standpoint from the get-go. This delay is just more of the same.

    7. MichaelT says:

      The real problem, which Apple won't state, is that they had to wait for Vista to come out before they could start their copiers.

      HA HA HA HA HA! Just kidding!

      Seriously, I can't wait to see what Leopard will be like, especially when we see the secret features. And even though it seems like there isn't much change in what we've seen so far, I bet there will be plenty to get excited about in the final version. Time will tell.

    8. Gene,
      Leopard has had me frustrated ever since its “unveiling” at WWDC ‘06. All of the unnecessary swipes at Microsoft - “Redmond, start your photocopiers” - and “secret features” were just too much. And now, nearly a year later, NONE of the secret features has been even remotely revealed, the developer builds of Leopard have been constant near-disaster, and Vista is finally out, and it ain’t too bad.
      Of the revealed Leopard features, only Time Machine looks even slightly interesting. Meanwhile, the Finder remains just as lame and slow and flaky as it has been since Panther. (Oh, yea, I saw the latest developer release gives the Finder the “uni” look. Well, woo-freakin-who.)
      I’m taking care of 105 Macs here at a newspaper, so spare the flames. I’m no troll. But Leopard has been mismanaged from a PR and engineering standpoint from the get-go. This delay is just more of the same.

      Not to belabor the point, but we don't know what the full feature set of Leopard will be, and we'll probably have to wait until June 11 before that information is forthcoming.

      Now if there are no Finder improvements announced at that point, it's time to rant :)

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. Tom B says:

      "the developer builds of Leopard have been constant near-disaster"

      What is actually known? 10.4.X is VERY solid. What problem areas for 10.5 have been reported on the forums? I doubt it's a "near-disaster".

    10. “the developer builds of Leopard have been constant near-disaster”

      What is actually known? 10.4.X is VERY solid. What problem areas for 10.5 have been reported on the forums? I doubt it’s a “near-disaster”.

      Beyond the rumor sites, anything that is known to developers is protected by Apple's confidentiality agreement, and I won't let such material appear here for that very reason.

      However, you can infer a lot simply by the scope of the delay. If it were just a matter of moving some engineers over to the iPhone for a couple of months to complete the project, that shouldn't cause a four-month delay in shipping Leopard, right?

      Peace,
      Gene

    11. Jim says:

      I will acknowledge that the "constant near-disasters" is hyperbole on my part. I take it back. However, every feedback I've ever received either firsthand or through other websites is that each build of Leopard is chockablock with show-stopping issues. As Gene says, the length of the delay speaks for itself.

    12. Viswakarma says:

      Since Mac OS X seems to be the core of quite a few Apple's products and iPhone is a fairly complex product, I am not surprised at the delay. If people remember the experiences of Fred Brooks (proect manager for IBM OS 360) detailed in the book "The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering", I think Apple did the prudent approach by delaying the release of Leopard till October.

    13. John Davis says:

      Why is it that those commenting on the theme of the Leopard delay need to be so suspicious and skeptical? Why do we need to search for a hidden meaning in everything?

      It might just be as the press announcement from Apple says. Apple has limited resources. It isn't a huge company. But it's interesting that it IS making press and it IS innovating. The iPhone is going to be huge. It's going to make BIG bucks for Apple and it's going to really put the company there, in the public eye. They also have to get it out fast because they have announced the feature set and it won't take long before imitations show up. It makes total sense to give it priority.

      Lets try and exercise a little more trust.

      The stated delay is only three months after all.

      John Davis

    14. Why is it that those commenting on the theme of the Leopard delay need to be so suspicious and skeptical? Why do we need to search for a hidden meaning in everything?

      It might just be as the press announcement from Apple says. Apple has limited resources. It isn’t a huge company. But it’s interesting that it IS making press and it IS innovating. The iPhone is going to be huge. It’s going to make BIG bucks for Apple and it’s going to really put the company there, in the public eye. They also have to get it out fast because they have announced the feature set and it won’t take long before imitations show up. It makes total sense to give it priority.

      Lets try and exercise a little more trust.

      The stated delay is only three months after all.

      John Davis

      Four months actually :)

      The only issue is the timing and that's where the skepticism comes in. How many engineers did Apple have to borrow to add four months to Leopard's development time? It would have to be the whole crew, it would seem.

      I'm perfectly willing to take Apple's word here, but there are a few skeptical feelings too.

      Peace,
      Gene

    15. Neurotic Nomad says:

      With an extra 12 weeks added to Tiger's lifespan, I suggest issuing 10.4.10 to fix what 10.4.9 broke.

    16. With an extra 12 weeks added to Tiger’s lifespan, I suggest issuing 10.4.10 to fix what 10.4.9 broke

      Make that 16 weeks. But don't bet the ranch on a 10.4.10.

      So precisely what did they break?

      Peace,
      Gene

    17. Dana Sutton says:

      You can never blame a corporation for doing that which is most profitable, and I can see that getting the iPhone to the market is likely to generate a good deal of new revenue. And Apple may have some contractual obligation with Cingular to get the iPhone out by some specific date. But I still can't help feeling that we Mac users have been let down. In my specific case, for example, I recently bought a MacPro and I have been hoping that Leopard will have improvements to multithreading, graphics, and such other things that will allow me to get more value out of my purchase. Now I am told I have to wait, and had I known this I might very well have held off buying my new Mac. And I can't help wondering, if Apple has really been forced to pull programmers off Leopard to help complete the iPhone version of OSX, why they haven't hired more people. A company as successful as Apple shouldn't be having a staffing crisis, but this is in effect what they are telling us is happening.

    18. Mike Peter Reed says:

      "And now, nearly a year later, NONE of the secret features has been even remotely revealed"

      Could that be because Apple is better at keeping secrets and doing timely leaks? If there are any "secrets" they must be revealed with the June Beta. But I'm sure it'll be in the style of Microsoft's top secret Aero interface which to the layman is just a huge yawn.

      Apple sells to consumers (those who suffer from consumption presumably), so if normal people aren't interested in the "secrets" then it will all be for nowt.

      Maybe we'll see multi-touch support baked into Leopard and the release of a full-size multi-touch Mac tablet or table with software to match. Maybe Leopard will power the Google PC with AMD processors. Who cares.

    19. kirasaw says:

      here is another possibility:
      Maybe Leopard is behind schedule and maybe it is due to the iPhone. but why would you announce a 3 week or 5 week or even 9 week delay in Leopard and then ship it on time? By announcing a shorter delay it causes people not to buy now and wait. Do you really think it is purely coincidence that as talk of Mac sales slowing down to wait for Leopard are starting to circulate it is then that Leopard is delayed? If your really smart - and trust me Jobs & company are really smart - you announce a long delay - this gets people buying Macs instead of waiting for the soon to be released software, but you also give yourself a long enough delay to ship it ahead of the scheduled delay date. That way once people start waiting to buy new macs you release the software. Marketing!

    20. reinharden says:

      Don't forget that the AppleTV undoubtedly accounted for some of the extra effort.

      The MacOS X team has had these major issues to work on since shipping 10.4
      1) 10.4.*
      2) 10.5
      3) Universal binaries (so 10.4.* and 10.5 are both PowerPC and Intel)
      4) Support embedded environment for Apple TV
      5) Support embedded environment for iPhone
      6) Continual enhancements to support move from dual processor to quad processor to octo processor

      I have no doubt that there are probably some other products floating around inside Apple running MacOS X in one form or another.

      Anyway, this fundamentally means than a somewhat larger team is attempting to do as much as 7 times more work moving from 10.4 to 10.5 as they did when moving from 10.3 to 10.4.

      So while I'm disappointed by by the delay, I mostly accept it.

      reinharden

    21. John Davis says:

      One of the reasons for Apple's success and Microsoft's failure is the fact that Microsoft, like its software, is huge, bloated and full of committees. Committees substitute compromise for innovation. They produce nothing new because they have to get a consensus each time. Apple, on the other hand, is a small, tightly knit group with a clear leader who decides the direction and gets things moving that way. The downside is that it is stretched rather thin right now.

      Whether Apple turns into a bloated monster or retains its focus depends on what it does from now on.

      It's a kind of crossroads, I think.

      Yours sincerely,

      John Davis

    22. here is another possibility:
      Maybe Leopard is behind schedule and maybe it is due to the iPhone. but why would you announce a 3 week or 5 week or even 9 week delay in Leopard and then ship it on time? By announcing a shorter delay it causes people not to buy now and wait. Do you really think it is purely coincidence that as talk of Mac sales slowing down to wait for Leopard are starting to circulate it is then that Leopard is delayed? If your really smart - and trust me Jobs & company are really smart - you announce a long delay - this gets people buying Macs instead of waiting for the soon to be released software, but you also give yourself a long enough delay to ship it ahead of the scheduled delay date. That way once people start waiting to buy new macs you release the software. Marketing!

      So let's see here. There's really no reason for a delay. Apple simply wants to stoke the fires of Mac sales and keep the product moving, and then they'll turn around and release it when they originally promised.

      I'm not buying it.

      I'll go along with the iPhone excuse, in part, but I suspect the project isn't coming together as fast as Apple hoped. Being lean and mean can have its limitations.

      Peace,
      Gene

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