It’s a sure thing that, when Microsoft puts its promotional efforts into full gear, it can accomplish wonders. Consider Windows 95, regarded by many as the first really usable version, and one that many regarded as truly competitive with the Mac OS. Consider, also, the fact that many businesses still actually use Windows 2000, and you can see where Microsoft would surely love to have them all upgrade.
Despite the delays and slimming of features, Windows Vista appears to be on track for release in time for the 2006 Christmas shopping season. It really doesn’t matter whether Vista will approach Mac OS X Tiger in terms of features and security. When the world’s largest software company devotes hundreds of millions of dollars to an ad campaign, you can bet that tons of copies will be sold, even if the business market isn’t quite ready to take the bait. At the very least, lots of new PC boxes will be preloaded with Vista.
So the question arises: Does Apple want to compete with a new operating system of its own, or just devote its own worthy marketing muscle on pushing iPods? Besides, the transition to Intel will be complete by then and many of them may sell simply by basking in the iPod’s glow.
Whatever the reason, it does appear that, unless there’s an accelerated development schedule, you won’t see Mac OS X Leopard this year. I say that simply because Apple’s special event for developers, the WWDC, has been pushed back to the week of August 7th to 11th of this year. As many of you readers recall, Steve Jobs used last year’s WWDC keynote to confirm the widely published rumors and speculation that they was switching to Intel processors. In the past, the WWDC has been used to deliver information and developer’s copies of brand new versions of the Mac OS, or major hardware announcements.
With last year’s promise that Leopard would appear by the end of 2006 or early in 2007, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll learn a lot more come August. But I don’t expect Apple to deliver a foreshortened release schedule and force developers to get their products in order in just a few short months. Lest we forget, many will still be working on getting Universal binary versions of their products out the door. One might even be so optimistic as to suggest that Adobe will appear at the event to announce a new version of its Creative Suite, for release this fall. But, as I said, that is optimistic, but one can always hope.
So the wraps will be lifted off Leopard, and you’ll get a preview, but the official release will be delayed to 2007, perhaps by spring. That will give Apple plenty of time to tout its arrival during the Macworld Expo next January. Developers will breathe a sigh of relief, and Apple won’t have to compete dollar for dollar with Microsoft to sell new operating systems.
No, I’m not about to suggest what might appear in Leopard, although I’ve published a few wish list items from time to time. I would hope and expect, however, that it’ll ship as a Universal installer, so a single installer will run on both PowerPC and MacIntels.
August may be another significant month, for I also expect that you’ll hear about the Intel version of Apple’s professional desktop, since the chips expected to be used should be shipping in quantity by then. You may even hear about a new version of the Xserve, which hasn’t been updated in quite a while.
The two product announcements, with fairly immediate shipping plans between August and September, would signal the final migration to Intel, well over a year ahead of schedule. Will it still bear the Power Mac moniker? I don’t think so. Whether you like it or not, it will probably be called Mac Pro, keeping it consistent with the MacBook Pro.
As to the rest of the line, the iBook’s Intel update is just weeks away, likely to be called MacBook, and you should see a 12-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro before long, perhaps at the very same time. In fact, by fall, you shouldn’t be surprised to see second generation versions of rest of the Mac line, since Intel updates its processors rather frequently. Or it may just be that such upgrades will be more incremental, coinciding with the fastest chips Intel has available at the time.
So am I simply speculating here? Well, sure, but I think I’m being circumspect too, and nothing here should be terribly surprising. I would love to be amazed along the way, but this is a great starting point.
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