The Leopard Report: Why Rush?

March 1st, 2007

If all goes well, Mac OS 10.5 Leopard should arrive by the middle of June. Why am I being so precise? Well, inasmuch as the Apple’s WWDC is scheduled for June 11-15, so it would seem logical that it’ll be shipping by then, or, at worst, shortly thereafter.

Understand that Apple has been mum about Leopard’s particulars besides that initial demonstration last August and the preview at its Web site. Other than the rumor sites, not much more is available. You know, for example, about such new features as the Time Machine backup application, Spaces for multiple or virtual desktops, enhancements to iChat and Mail, the ability to make your own Dashboard widgets, improved Spotlight searching and lots of neat stuff for developers to chew over.

On the surface, this doesn’t sound like an awful lot. What you’ve seen of Leopard doesn’t represent any huge changes in Mac OS X’s interface. As a practical matter, that might make sense. After all, why mess with a good thing? Tiger, for example, seems to work all right for most of you. Serious problems stemming from the initial release seem to have been largely overcome. If there is indeed a 10.4.9, as some expect, well maybe there will be a few more fixes to deal with. But is there a crying need for such an update?

Compared to Windows Vista — which had a shaky start from a sales standpoint — Tiger works quite well thank you. As in Vista, it has a fast desktop search tool, a pretty user interface and requires verification before software is installed.

But where Tiger does things with elegance, Vista bashes you over the head with repeated requests for approval to allow the system to do this, that, and the other thing. Vista’s eye-candy, assuming your PC has sufficiently powerful graphics hardware to see it — and you have the right version of Microsoft’s operating system — can be considered just a little too in your face.

Without going into all the down and dirty details, Tiger pretty much does everything Vista can do for most users, with far more finesse. So there’s really not a whole lot of pressure on Apple to rush Leopard into production to overcome any perceived Vista advantages.

If anything, Apple has plenty of time to get it right, make sure all the new features work properly, and that everything else is as solid as possible. If it takes a month, fine. Three months? No problem. I can wait.

Does this mean The Night Owl is going to sit back and not upgrade to Leopard when it arrives? No way. I expect to be on the front lines, or rather place my order online from the convenience of my home office, so it gets here as quickly as possible, probably within a day of its appearance on the store shelves.

For the rest of you — as I’ve said previously — it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to postpone purchase of a new Mac until it’s preloaded with Leopard. Sure, you may save $129, or whatever Leopard will cost (and I expect it to be higher actually), but you will benefit in the meantime from the higher productivity of a new computer.

And, should Leopard ship with a few early-release bugs, you won’t have to feel that you’re forced to give it a shakedown cruise before you can get real work done. That can actually be a saving grace in a production environment where it’s more important to meet your deadlines than fiddle with a new operating system, however reliable it may be.

In the meantime, Apple appears to be in pretty good stead. After all, it’s not as if the Windows fanboys are gushing over Vista in huge numbers. They didn’t line up at dealers to buy the first copies to ship — or at least most of them didn’t. Most waited for Vista to be included with a new PC purchase, since they didn’t want to endure the pain of installing it on an older computer, and, believe me, it can be painful. Or at least unpredictable.

So in the grand scheme of things, when Leopard arrives, great. If it fulfills its promise with a couple of hundred great new features, even better. True, at one point I felt Apple was under some pressure to get it out in a reasonably fast timeframe. Now I’m not so sure.

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10 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Why Rush?”

  1. Dana Sutton says:

    “But is there a crying need for such an update?” Not in terms of interface improvements or such new features as Spaces or Time Machine (a lot of us already have third-party applications that do these things and do them better). Certainly not questionable “improvements” like eye-candy in email or jazzed up -Chat. If there is any urgent need, it’s for invisible under-the-hood stuff. Stuff like a further speed improvement in Rosetta (OS 10.4.8 gave us one such speed bump, why can’t we hope for more?) and better exploitation of multiprocessor computing. Stuff, that will let those who have already bought Intel Macs to capitalize on their investment more than they can with Tiger, and that will convince fence-sitters who still own G-5s that it’s time to make the switch. Stuff, in short, that will help sell more Macs.

  2. I took a quick look at Vista. I actually think it might be a slight regression from XP. For example, the transparency effects are not well done, and thanks to them, readability of inactive windows on the screen is downright hard, at least on the Dell laptop with the rather dark theme I was able to check out. It looked like they blurred the text and reduced its readability. I checked an Apple laptop and both active and inactive windows were easy to read.

    It certainly didn’t feel like a “WOW!” moment.

    To be fair, the folks at the Dell kiosk in the mall don’t give you Internet access, so there’s not a lot you can do with the Dells on offer. Their weather widget still showed the weather in Redmond, Washington (cloudy, glum, naturally) even though I am about 3,000 miles away from that ghastly place.

    Still, I have a feeling there’s going to be a new, darker look for MacOS X, because that’s what the iPhone portends. I think we’ll find that the user interface of regular MacOS X and the iPhone will be brought close together so they really integrate well. I also think a lot of those “top secret” features concern iPhone integration, and that’s why we don’t see them in the beta or the demos.

    If you look at RoughlyDrafted’s stuff about MacOS X server, they are making a play for the enterprise. Add the iPhone to the mix, and tight integration between the phone and MacOS X, and I think you have a compelling platform for people who are setting up shop.

    We do live in interesting times indeed.


  3. Richard Taylor says:


    Re D’s comment about Washington being ghastly, it’s actually a lovely place, green as you might imagine but with its own distinct look and feel. I live on California’s Central Coast not far from Hearst Castle, so this isn’t a ‘homer’ comment.

    Regarding Mac’s growing market share, I wonder if there is any way we might compare apples to apples, so to speak, by weaning out portions of the PC market Apple doesn’t compete in. No trucks, no vans, no cabs, no fleet cars — just automobiles people pay for themselves. Obviously, when compared to the marketplace where people lay down their own money, Macs will be seen to be doing much better that 4.5% (or whatever the current percentage is) of the market.



  4. MichaelT says:


    How about 6.38%?

  5. Andrew says:

    For home use I think Macs likely do quite well in the market. No, nowhere near the total number of PCs in their respective categories, but likely far better than any SINGLE PC VENDER in a given category.

    Looking at home-oriented desktops, for example, or student laptops, I’d imagine Apple sells more MacBooks or iMacs than HP or Lenovo sells of a directly competing model.

    On a model-by-model basis Apple does very well. Of course, that ignores the categories where Apple doesn’t compete, and that isn’t as simple as ultra-cheap desktops or ultralight laptops. Apple sells three basic desktop configurations and three basic laptop configurations. In laptops, Apple’s MacBook is a very nice “Thin and Light”, while the MacBook Pro is either also a “Thin and Light” (15″) or a media model (17″). Apple ignores the budget, ultralight, tablet, ruggedized and dockable (business?) categories completely, and thats just laptops.

    In desktops, Apple has the compact (Mini), all-in-one (iMac) and high-end workstation (Mac Pro) markets well covered, but again ignores budget, hobbyist (upgradable but moderately priced) and likely other categories (I’m not a desktop enthusiast). Apple’s X-serve is a great mid-range server, but again ignores many server markets either by being too expensive, too cheap, too much or too little in any given area.

    Leopard won’t change any of that. OS X, and I am sure Leopard will be as good as or better than what we have now, is an amazing system, but that system is only available to users in the markets and segments to which Apple sells.

  6. Richard Taylor says:


    But isn’t that 6.38% a percentage of the total number of PCs sold, and not a true evaluation of computers bought by individuals? Isn’t this where Apple really competes, the occasional sale to a school here and there to the contrary?


  7. Richard Dalziel-Sharpe says:

    Lets all be patient wait until the bugs in Vista show start showing up. I would rather wait ’til the kinks are fixed in Leopard, then we Mac users can say WOW and mean in.

  8. Chris says:

    Richard said:
    “Regarding Mac’s growing market share, I wonder if there is any way we might compare apples to apples, so to speak, by weaning out portions of the PC market Apple doesn’t compete in. No trucks, no vans, no cabs, no fleet cars — just automobiles people pay for themselves. Obviously, when compared to the marketplace where people lay down their own money, Macs will be seen to be doing much better that 4.5% (or whatever the current percentage is) of the market.”

    I saw a report some years ago on MacSurfer that if one eliminated all windows pcs except those used by consumers and small businesses that the market share for Apple and MS was roughly equal. Sorry Icannot remember more or who compiled it.


  9. Norb Bueh says:

    What is the probability of new laptop hardware releases at the same time as the OS? In which case I would be willing to wait 2 months ( don’t think June is the month – I think April / May is spring, not June – June is Summer here in the states ! ) I would be very disappointed if a new OS was the only thing Apple introduced, we need some “WOW” from the computer folks at Apple too. Hope they still have a few left. I mean computer folks that is!

  10. MichaelT says:


    I totally agree. I posted that link just to show that Apple is growing in the marketplace, but I have noticed recently in the “home world” that more of my friends and family are asking me questions about Mac. And I can’t think of any of them that have bought a PC. I think the trend is hot in Apple’s favor right now.

    And since I can’t think of anywhere else to post this, I’ll put this nonsense here:

    I was thinking of Vista’s code name being Longhorn (and why would you name your latest, greatest hardware after a cow?), and I thought, well, maybe they were naming it after the cheese. And of course that made me think that years ago the code name for XP must have been Swiss.

    It’s dumb, I know, but I had to say it.



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