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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