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The Leopard Report: Mac OS 10.5 and iLife — Happy Together

Some of you must be wondering why Apple hasn’t said anything about when the next version of iLife will appear. Yes, there were all those expectations that you’d see this wonderful digital lifestyle suite during the Macworld Expo earlier this month, but that was not to be.

The rumor sites even had a few suggestions about feature updates and maybe an extra application or two. But none of that is really relevant, because I am about to make a bold and foolish prediction: You will not see a new version of iLife until Leopard ships!

If you look at today’s preview of Leopard on Apple’s Web site, you will find this statement: “Now Built In –Mac OS X Leopard offers some new standard features you may have seen before.”

True, only Boot Camp, Front Row and Photo Booth are mentioned, and this makes sense, since the first was already promised, and the next two are based on hardware that many Macs already have. But is that all?

All right, you know what I’m getting it. I have a hunch that Apple will also roll in the iLife applications into Leopard. Not some of them, but all of them, so you don’t have to buy a separate product to be current with the latest iDVD, iPhoto and iWeb. It’ll all be standard issue, and maintenance updates over the life of Leopard will be free, as usual.

Part of the reason is pretty obvious when you realize the system needs for the present version, iLife ’06. According to Apple it requires: “Mac OS X v10.3.9 or v10.4.3 or later; v10.4.4 recommended.”

So to get the best possible performance and reliability, you need a recent version of Tiger, even though iLife ’06 is a separate retail product.

No doubt iLife ’07 will contain features that integrate nicely with Leopard. If it was designed to be a standalone product, it would, perhaps grudgingly, function with Tiger. So you’ll need to buy the operating system upgrade anyway for maximum performance, and to access all the cool new features.

There’s another reason, and that is to remain, on the surface at least, competitive with Windows Vista. You see, the equivalent Vista versions of some of the iLife applications, which include Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker, are already bundled with the higher-priced versions of the operating system, such as the Home Premium and Ultimate editions.

As you know, you pay a higher price to get all these extras. Apple, on the other hand, offers a one-size-fits-all package for the client edition of Mac OS X, and I don’t expect that to change for Leopard.

Apple’s philosophy is to keep it simple, so you don’t end up having to upgrade to another version when you find the one you have lacks what you need. Or downgrade, because it has more features than you want or need, and, besides, no dealer is going to offer you an exchange to the cheaper version.

At the same time, it’s time for the other shoe to drop. You see, Apple isn’t going to bundle iLife applications in Leopard and not charge you extra for all the goodies that were formerly available separately. No, It won’t increase the retail price to, say, $208, which is the combined price of the two packages based on current estimates. I’m thinking more like $159, which doesn’t strike me as a steep rise from $129, and therefore won’t cause a hue and outcry from a lot of you.

Yes, I realize that a $30 price increase isn’t something to regard casually, particularly if you only recently bought a Tiger upgrade. At the same time, unless you buy a PC preloaded with Windows Vista, as you’ll be able to do shortly now, the cheapest comparable Windows Vista upgrade, Home Premium, retails for $239. The upgrade version, which requires a previous installation of Windows XP or Windows 2000 (and their various and sundry sibling editions), is $159.

So is Apple really gouging you?

Now I’m not going to dwell on that other subject, which is whether Apple should be giving recent Tiger users — or all Tiger users — a $30 rebate. That’s yesterday’s news, as far as I’m concerned, since I’ve made my pitch and I consider it a logical and exceedingly fair move.

I also think that bundling iLife into Leopard is a brilliant idea. The small price increase should be sufficient to cover Apple’s development expenses, and it’ll put every Mac OS 10.5 user on an equal footing from the get-go. And, lest you forget, your new Mac always has the latest iLife already installed anyway at no extra charge.

Sure, some of you may want to revolt over paying another dime for any Apple product, considering its terrific profit margins. But can you really say they don’t deserve the money?