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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12 Responses to “The Leopard Report: The Alleged Rush to Beat Vista to Market”

  1. David says:

    I believe Apple will show off, but not release, Leopard at MWSF in January. The features shown at WWDC will be enhanced (as some already are in developer builds) and ready to go, so the “secret” features will take center stage. Steve will probably announce a real shipping date, but it will be 6-8 weeks after the show to give them time to put the finishing touches on the “secret” features and get a million DVDs pressed.

  2. Javaholic says:

    If the first release of itunes 7 is anything to go by, I’d rather Apple take more time with the quality testing their software with Leopard. Right now I could care less who gets to the finish line first – as long as the customer isnt penalised with beta releases because of a 2 horse race.

  3. RacerBoy says:

    Two Horse Race?
    He He He. I can assure you that it is a one horse race…

  4. Matthew says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Javaholic’s comment. I believe that Apple is pretty confident in where they are standing in the market with their Operating system, sure it may not hold the massive market share that microsoft does, however it has much of the features that microsoft aspires to have in their products, and I’m quite curious to see what the secret features will be, I believe it will involve Safari, Finder and iCal, why? just because from screenshots of the Leopard beta they are the only ones that have yet to lose their brushed look.

  5. Daniel says:

    I’ll third Javaholic’s comments. As a mac and linux user I’m happy with being kept at arms length from the code as long as it just works but when things go wrong it’s very irritating not to be able to figure out what’s happening –
    It sounds like I’m not the only one having problems with iTunes 7…. for me it seems to crash without any report every 3 or 4 tracks and sometimes even more frequently. I’ll be much happier with a stable if later Leopard.

  6. It sounds like I’m not the only one having problems with iTunes 7…. for me it seems to crash without any report every 3 or 4 tracks and sometimes even more frequently. I’ll be much happier with a stable if later Leopard.

    There is a 7.0.1 update for iTunes that’s supposed to fix some crashing bugs. Have you tried that?


  7. David DeTinne says:

    Can you imagine if Steve Jobs/Apple decided to allow the purchase of a shrink wrap copy of OS X for PC’s to compete against Vista? With the licensing restrictions and problems with Vista, with one decision Steve could knock out 20% to 30% of the desktop market in a few months. For those of you who state that Apple will never do this because they are a hardware company, I agree. However with that said, I would not mind buying an apple computer but just can’t justify it because I have too much money invested in GOOD working computers. I will run XP for a while longer due to the new licensing restrictions for Vista. And please don’t bring up the driver issue. Over the last few years, most of the hardware used by the general public has been integrated on to the mother board.

  8. wowmir says:

    Sure there is a 7.0.1 update but that dose not justufy the crashing not to mention the hassel of re downloading.

  9. Anonymous User says:

    David DeTinne:
    Your lack of understanding when it comes to the personal computer market is amusing. Furthermore you clearly lack historical perspective on both markets, especially Macs. While it’s a shame you have invested money on sub-standard hardware, others have made better decisions. Your suggestion that device drivers write themselves once the chips are moved onto the motherboard is moronic. There is no reason to open your mouth when it comes to technical discussions. Everyone including yourself would be better served without your idiotic closed minded drivel. Leave the heavy thinking to those who actually understand this market.

  10. Henrik says:

    And please don’t bring up the driver issue. Over the last few years, most of the hardware used by the general public has been integrated on to the mother board.

    But it doesn’t solve the driver issue. Even if the hardware is fully integrated on the motherboard, you still need drivers for every single part of it.

    From what I can see in hardware sales, it seems that Apple would also make a lot more money by selling hardware to a 5% marketshare than selling software to a 30% marketshare.

    First of all, piracy would probably skyrocket. How many pirated XPs are out there? A lot. Having iTunes and iPod operable on Windows is only a gateway to allow people to experience a little bit of Apple. There’s no piracy because iTunes is free and they have to pay for the iPod. 10 million pirated copies of OSX for PCs would generate zero income for Apple. 10 million iPods connected to PCs generate income.

    Second, the quality of the Apple experience would drop. Apple wouldn’t be able to say “it just works” anymore, because you WILL have driver issues. You WILL have support issues, because you will have the scenario of installing a buggy driver causing system crashes, just like on WIndows. It’s enough for Apple having iTunes to support various soundsystems and CD/DVD burners on Windows. Imagine the horde of glitches you’d experience with Quartz, because 30-40 different odd graphics card aren’t supported properly. This is one of the main reasons to buy a piece of Mac hardware, to get rid of such problems.

    Inflating the market share like this, doesn’t help Apple one bit. It would in the end make things a whole lot worse. Something about peeing in your pants comes to mind. 🙂

  11. Derek says:

    I don’t think Apple needs to rush. Vista is only nearly caught up with OS X 10.4. When 10.5 comes out, it will be far superior to Vista.

  12. Hugin777 says:

    In theory, Leopards new garbage collector could dramatically cut down on development time. Provided they use it in most of their applications; notably the Finder (which probably would need a complete rewrite in Cocoa to enjoy GC)…

    I still think they will release Leopard in Q2, but I think it’s possible that they are on a roll 🙂

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