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  • The Leopard Report: I Bet You Haven’t Heard Everything!

    June 21st, 2007

    When Steve Jobs said at the WWDC last year that some Leopard features were being held back to keep Microsoft from starting their copying machines so early, it was really hard to take seriously. It was all a bunch of marketing hooey, the soft of stuff that’s designed just to increase the public’s appetite about a new product.

    Indeed, Jobs is a master at salesmanship, so I figured there’d be a whole lot more at this year’s WWDC, particularly since developers were supposedly going home with feature-complete Leopard betas. I also felt that pretty much everything that could be said about Leopard’s new features would be listed at Apple’s site in short order.

    To be sure, there’s lots of information to be found there, but if you add it all up, do you come up with the more than 300 new features touted by Apple?

    Now you have to bear in mind that Apple is grouping those features under broad categories, such as the new Finder, iChat, Mail, Spaces, Time Machine and so forth and so on. Each one of those applications is apt to have a dozen or two new capabilities to call their own. So it’s quite possible that if you add everything up, and accept even the slightest change as a brand new feature, you will find yourself exceeding that 300 number, although they aren’t listed as basic bulleted points.

    No, I haven’t gone that far, and I don’t intend to. I’m sure that, when Leopard ships, you will indeed find that Apple’s claims will be met or surpassed, but I’m also convinced you haven’t heard everything yet.

    I’m not assuming that developers don’t have all of Leopard’s goodies in hand. No doubt a few of them, who don’t have the good sense to obey the confidentiality agreements they signed with Apple, will reveal whatever strikes them as new or different.

    It’s also possible that some of the new features are indeed present and accounted for, but not activated as part of the graphical interface, so they are not readily visible. In fact, it would surprise me to learn that we know all about Leopard there is to know, except for the usual tips and tricks that Mac writers will present in their articles and books.

    Remember, for example, the iPhone. Just this week, Jobs revealed that the screen would be made of glass instead of plastic, and that battery life is significantly longer than originally claimed.

    As Leopard moves towards its final release this fall, it wouldn’t surprise me to read about new features that haven’t been disclosed so far. Maybe they are present in those developer betas, unknown unless one pours deep into the innards of the operating system or discovers them by accident.

    Or maybe, just maybe, there aren’t there at all. It would be just as easy for Jobs to claim, say a month or two from now, that Apple’s developers had time to roll in a few more features that perhaps were originally earmarked for Leopard’s successor. But, as a gift to the Mac community, here they are now.

    Does that sound sensible to you? It sure makes sense to me. But let’s not go too far here. Remember that Tiger’s full feature set was disclosed early on, and the final release was precisely what was presented; nothing more, nothing less.

    Certainly, developers don’t want to be surprised at the last minute, because it could saddle them with extra work to make their apps compatible with Leopard. But if Apple confines those surprise features to things that won’t impair compatibility with third party products, maybe it’ll be all right.

    Then again, you can’t predict what outside developers are going to do with their products, so perhaps anything that changes their assumptions about what Leopard’s going to be like can have a negative impact.

    Understand, dear readers, that I do not have any secret information to offer. I am not speaking with developers about Leopard, nor do I want or expect them to offer me any information they aren’t allowed to reveal. While I am certainly highly curious over what Leopard is going to mean as far as my Mac computing experience is concerned, I can surely wait for it to be fully baked. In fact, I expect to buy a copy on the day it’s available.

    However, the 10.4.10 update for Tiger is working quite nicely. Yes, there are a few of those early-release bugs that seem to crop up whenever there’s a maintenance release. Some are reporting audio issues, others poor connectivity with wireless networks and even some application launch failures. It’s quite possible that these apparent bugs are limited to very specific installations, but that may not be known for a few days.

    So if 10.4.10 is awaiting you in the Software Update preference panel, there’s no harm in letting it sit there for a few more days until you know for sure everything is in good shape. But I’ve had no troubles at all, so I’m busy contemplating the possibilities of further revelations about Leopard. There may not be any, but this is surely a way to get some rumor sites to start their gossip machines rolling.

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