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  • The Leopard Top Secret Report: Give Me a Break!

    August 8th, 2006

    Perhaps the most important statement in an otherwise unsurprising keynote was the admission by Steve Jobs that some of the features of Leopard were still “top secret.” Now there may be a psychological factor here, to deliver the news in bits and pieces over the next seven to ten months of development time.

    But there is a more probable explanation, which is simply this: Some of the key Leopard features are simply not ready to display in prime time. They are in the early stages of development, extremely rough and won’t be rolled in until the interface and stability elements are much farther along.

    Of course, as developers get newer and newer editions of Leopard operating system builds, some of this information will leak to third parties. You’ll read about them in your favorite rumor and speculation site, or in the updates to Apple’s own Leopard site.

    So if you feel disappointed at where Leopard is going, hold on. There may be a lot more to come, and I’ll suggest a few areas where it may go.

    Of course, there’s the Finder. Lots of folks are aching for stability improvements, which won’t change the look in any meaningful way. But it’s also possible that Apple will smooth out the interface consistencies. None of that seemed in evidence during Monday’s keynote, where Leopard looked very much like Tiger, except for the feature enhancements and new capabilities.

    It is also possible that some of the other features will be fleshed out further. Mail, for example. Having stationery, notes and a To Do feature are nice, but I probably won’t use them. However, some might crave for improved support for connection to Exchange servers, and a bunch of other things that are currently provided in other mail clients.

    As far Dashboard: It’s nice to be able to build your own by the simple act of saving a Web page, but what about the ability to take a widget and move it into the normal application layer, so you don’t have essentially move everything aside when you want it to appear? Third parties add-ons can do that now, and I rather suspect Apple might as well, since Jobs made a point of saying that they were responding to user requests in making feature improvements for Leopard.

    Another question mark is Front Row. How will it be used on a Mac without the remote sensor capability, or will Apple provide a special USB-based adapter and remote control kit for older models? That would certainly justify rolling the application into Leopard, making it less dependent on specific Mac models.

    Before the keynote, I had breakfast with a marketing representative for a software company, and we both wondered whether the Rosetta emulation environment would get a speed boost. It would seem natural. The Intel version of Mac OS X was clearly rushed to market to get the hardware transition rolling. Rosetta runs fairly well as it is, but major applications lose half their speed potential.

    Of course, having a Mac Pro that’s up to twice as fast as the speediest Power Mac will compensate, but I would think that Apple and its partner, Transitive, are continuing to develop Rosetta. In the end, I expect improved compatibility, and maybe even a fairly decent performance boost.

    You see, Transitive has claimed a lot faster than 50% of native speed in its core technologies. Is it possible or just marketing-speak?

    To be sure, the chatter about Mac OS 10.5 Leopard is only beginning, and Microsoft may even now be wondering whether they can get Vista out first. Their window of opportunity is being reduced even as we speak.



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