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The Leopard Report: A March Release? No Way!

Only a few weeks ago, I honestly believed that Apple would release Mac OS 10.5 Leopard by late March, to honor the sixth anniversary of the original release of Mac OS X. At the time, it seemed a logical conclusion, or at least a worthy goal.

Now I’m not so sure, although some pundits and rumor sites are still suggesting Leopard will arrive only a few days after the arrival of spring. Why? Well, they seem to think that Leopard and Adobe Creative Suite CS3 somehow go together, and that one cannot exist without the other. Since Adobe has reportedly confirmed a March 27 release date, at least according to one published report in MacUser UK, this would seem to be perfectly logical. On the other hand, another report has it that this is just the announcement date, that the actual release will come later in the spring.

So what’s really happening here?

Despite what some think, I don’t think that one has anything to do with the other. Lest we forget, the public beta of Photoshop CS3 worked perfectly fine under Mac OS 10.4 Tiger. Sure, it’s possible it’ll take advantage of some features in Leopard, but Adobe builds products that are designed to operate in much the same fashion on a Mac and a PC. Operating system-specific features, beyond those needed for good performance and to provide the proper interface elements, are not often implemented.

Indeed, the professional content creators who buy Adobe’s products will buy the most powerful computers they can afford, but they will not necessarily become early adopters of a brand new operating system.

More to the point, Apple has yet to announce Leopard’s official shipping date — or even the final feature set. If the stories are true, that we are roughly three weeks away from its appearance on the store shelves, you’d think that Apple would be shouting it to the skies.

That, of course, has not yet happened. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be some sort of press briefing on the subject tomorrow or the next day, but such events are usually telegraphed about a week in advance, to give the media a few days to book plane tickets and hotel reservations. Within minutes of the receipt of those invitations, the word gets out quickly, and the clever clues and pictures are carefully scoured to in search of telltale clues.

So what’s going on? Is Leopard late, or is Apple simply moving along in accordance with its internal schedule? That’s a good question, and one that I’m not able to answer, nor is anyone outside of Apple. Sure, you do read stories about alleged prerelease versions that are being scrutinized by the Mac rumor sites, but don’t be sure they are 100% accurate.

If the are to be taken at face value — and I’m sure Apple is none-too-happy about the news getting out — you come away with the impression that there’s a lot of work left to be done. Features are incomplete, and there are plenty of problems that have to be ironed out before Leopard has the spit and polish of a finished product.

Again, of course, there’s no official confirmation of any of those, so believe what you will.

But you should believe this: Just because someone writes something about what Apple may or may not do means nothing. Unless the information comes from an official source, named or otherwise (and the latter is practically nonexistent with Apple), take it all with a grain of salt.

Right now, my feeling is that Leopard will ship in fairly close alignment with Apple’s WWDC gathering in the middle of June. Maybe you’d like to see it sooner, but that’s still spring 2007, which means Apple will be 100% on schedule. But, no, you cannot take that to the bank!