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  • The Leopard Report: The Alleged Rush to Beat Vista to Market

    October 13th, 2006

    If you can believe what some of the online tech prognosticators tell you, Apple’s real “Top Secret” plan is to have Mac OS 10.5 Leopard out by Macworld Expo in January, or perhaps shortly thereafter. If true, it would give Apple a chance to trounce Windows Vista, at least in times of mind share as opposed to market share, assuming the latter indeed comes out around the same time.

    Officially, everything is a go at Microsoft, the engines are running full steam, and the code for Vista will be dispatched to manufacturing within a few weeks. On the other hand, the reaction to the last public prerelease, RC2, is a little mixed. Some say it’s in tip-top shape, while others suggest there are still serious problems that must be fixed before the product ships.

    Somewhere between those two extremes is the suggestion that Microsoft will do the best it can between now and November, and ship the best code it has to meet its self-imposed deadline. They will continue to work on Vista, however, and there will be a downloadable update that will fix many of the most serious remaining bugs by January. That means that folks who install a brand new, shrink-wrapped copy of Vista, or who buy a computer on which it’s preloaded, will have to endure a long download with critical updates before it’s ready for prime time.

    On the other hand, how many of you have bought a new Mac only to find a few hundred megabytes of files left to download from Apple to bring things up to date? Touché!

    As far as Leopard is concerned, I think some of the folks who expect an early release ought to reconsider what they’re smoking or drinking. First and foremost, I saw that demo of Leopard at the WWDC, just as many of you did, either in person or via the QuickTime presentation of the keynote. It struck me as rough and not-so-ready, and one of the reasons some features aren’t being mentioned may well be that they just weren’t in good enough shape to withstand a demo. Yes, I also understand the marketing considerations, and that doling out extra features in January will have a huge impact among my fellow Mac users and, of course, the tech press.

    At the same time, I do not believe Apple is rushing towards a conclusion over the next three or four months. Lest we forget, Steve Jobs said Leopard would arrive in the spring of 2007, meaning anywhere from late March to late June.

    It’s easy to regard the rapid switch to Intel processors as evidence that Apple can do miracles, but I really don’t see that happening with Leopard. Sure, it’s possible that Steve Jobs will tell you that it will ship in late March of 2007, on or about the sixth anniversary of Mac OS X. This would be quite within Apple’s timeframe, and the event will have an historical significance for those who care about such things.

    So why are some Mac sites claiming Leopard will be wrapped up and ready to go two months before that date? Do they know something I don’t; that you don’t?

    Yes, the rumor sites do get things right from time to time, and I suppose some do have a powerful crystal ball, genuine informants from Apple or its suppliers, or perhaps a combination of both. It’s also perfectly true that some of those rumor reports are quite accurate, close enough to make you take them seriously.

    On the other hand, the rumor sites get things wrong too, and it’s a good idea to see where they fail, and consider that they might just be playing the odds when they present some of their information. If you toss enough of this stuff into the air, perhaps some will stick.

    Also, if you watch Apple’s release timetables often enough, and pay close attention to the last time a product was updated, you can make some really good guesses. Now that Intel is supplying the processors, the product roadmap is extremely clear, and you know about it far in advance. So if there’s a new and powerful chip being readied, you can bet Apple is likely to offer it once quantities are sufficient to meet demand.

    Without possessing any paranormal powers whatever, I can tell you that new MacBook and MacBook Pro note-books will be coming soon, containing Intel Core 2 Duo chips. I can also tell you that Apple will probably introduce a version of the Mac Pro in the next few months that contains a pair of quad-processor chips, simply because Intel is coming close to releasing such products.

    As to Leopard, I will make no guesses at all, except to say that there’s a 50/50 chance a real release date will be announced in January. That way, I could be right or wrong and still meet the odds.



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