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  • The Leopard Report: Is Apple Regaining What it Lost?

    June 14th, 2007

    As much as some people have been busy yawning at the WWDC keynote, I regard some of the developments as particularly significant, even though this particular 90-minute Steve Jobs address is regarded as a one of his worst in recent years. But isn’t that what they said last year?

    No, it’s not Time Machine. We heard about all that last year, and little new was revealed about it. Spaces? I’ve never become enamored with multiple desktops largely because I use a utility, HideItControl, which only keeps the application I’m using visible. That’s sufficient for me.

    I suppose I might warm up to the improvements in Apple Mail, although I switched to Microsoft Entourage 2004 a long time ago because of its superior handling of IMAP. iChat? Well, the promise of improved sound quality is encouraging, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to make and receive phone calls, just as you can now with Skype? Just asking.

    No, none of this gets my blood flowing, and since I don’t write software for a living or any other purpose, having better 64-bit support and all the rest are of academic interest. If these features help deliver better applications, allowing me to get my work done more efficiently and with greater flair, fine and dandy. Otherwise, I just don’t care.

    However, having a better Finder does impress me quite a bit. Yes, having it resemble iTunes is certainly useful, particularly for Mac switchers and those who are obsessive about interface consistency. But my main concern is being able to organize my stuff, and not to suffer from the blatant slowdowns of the previous Finder. As I’m writing this article, for example, I’m simply backing up a couple of folders in simultaneous operations to a pair of backup drives. That’s all. Yet routine Finder functions, such as displaying a small folder of files, or even invoking an Open dialog box, have slowed to a crawl. And this is on a vintage Power Mac G5 Quad, with loads and loads of RAM.

    Yes, the Finder can be snappier on a MacIntel, but not to a large degree.

    So even if Apple left the Finder’s interface alone, repairing its performance lapses would be a huge plus for me. In fact, that would rate well ahead of any interface changes, but having the promise of both is particularly impressive. If the promise of the new desktop and Finder are largely realized, that’s almost enough to convince me to pay $129 for the Leopard upgrade.

    Stacks? Well, those are fancy folders that simply display a few animated tricks when you click on them and they open before your eyes. I suppose that’s better than simply clicking on a folder in the Dock, and, while the mouse key is pressed, have the contents pop open. It might even encourage developers to harness the power of Core Animation since Apple has put it on display wherever possible.

    Of course, there are supposed to be over 300 new features in Leopard, which ought to be enough to justify the two-and-a-half year wait, although only a small number of those enhancements have been revealed so far.

    So I suppose there’s reason to hope that there are other goodies that only developers under nondisclosure agreements are just discovering, but might appear at Apple’s site before long. I’m still optimistic that the tired Open and Save dialog boxes will be enhanced for easier navigation and maybe even the ability to deliver an expanded list of recent stuff, including the files you’ve been accessing.

    Being able to create my own Dashboard widget by taking a clip from Safari 3 sounds interesting, but it’s not my number one priority.

    However, it’s good to know that Apple has decided to revert to its original 1984 concept of consistency, by consolidating all the interface variants into that single shaded-gray look. It’s about time.

    Of course, the most important things about a new operating system are often not the features that are most appealing to marketing people. You want speed and stability, for example, but that doesn’t sound terribly sexy. And it is true that each version of Mac OS X has been more reliable and snappier than its predecessor, although the difference between Panther and Tiger wasn’t huge.

    I would hope that, after packing on all the eye candy, Apple has done something to make Leopard run faster, and, with all that extra development time, there won’t be so many point-zero bugs this time out. In fact, some folks weren’t happy with Tiger until a few of the most serious initial defects were eradicated. Let’s really hope that things are different this time.

    For now, I’ll just remain ever-optimistic that we won’t need that inevitable 10.5.1 right away, although it will eventually appear.



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    29 Responses to “The Leopard Report: Is Apple Regaining What it Lost?”

    1. Dorian says:

      All applications are the latest.

      I can’t speak for IMAP since Mail does not work with Exchange unless IMAP is enabled within Exchange and most companies don’t because it apparently leads to more SPAM. I can only speak of both apps within the realm of interface and usability.

      If our company enabled IMAP, I would most certainly use Mail. I have not seen any improvements in Entourage since the beginning.

    2. Jim Sheppard says:

      A couple of comments: 1) Why must the touchscreen remain in the vertical plane? After 10M people get used to using the iPhone interface in 2008, Apple releases a machine in which input and display is one piece. Horizontal. Pure speculation. 2) Each Stevenote is either the best one ever (Steve gives us many new toys) or the worst one ever (Steve does not give us gobs of new toys). The more things change the more they stay the same.

    3. simon says:

      jeez, get a grip, your articles have got so boring and whiney. this one doesn’t say anything new that could have been added to a similar article written about tiger, or panther, or OS 9, or OS7 even. Please, say something interesting!

    4. jeez, get a grip, your articles have got so boring and whiney. this one doesn’t say anything new that could have been added to a similar article written about tiger, or panther, or OS 9, or OS7 even. Please, say something interesting!

      Can’t — my sides hurt too much 😉

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Anders says:

      What about fixing the annoying behaviour of Finder – and many other programs – freezing for 20 minuntes if you by mistake unplug the network cable without unmounting network volumes. THAT would seal the deal for me..

    6. David W says:

      jeez, get a grip, your articles have got so boring and whiney. this one doesn’t say anything new that could have been added to a similar article written about tiger, or panther, or OS 9, or OS7 even. Please, say something interesting!

      So in this brave new world of yours people will suddenly stop working in offices, won’t need to look at or store paper documents (computerization has increased paper use) and will stop drinking coffee so they can completely do away with horizontal surfaces. Interesting. I think you’re wrong.

      I think people will always want a horizontal surface with integrated physical storage. Why not have an adjustable and removable top surface that acts as an input/output device? Why not take the iPhone idea and give it a screen 5 or even 25 times as large? Give yourself the ability to spread out, open books, scatter files, sketch out ideas, sign important documents and store that steaming hot cup of java. Lose that presentation remote and use anything from a TV remote to a cheap laser pointer to change slides and wow your audience with animated sequences.

      Microsoft Surface is huge, heavy, power hungry and has all the ergonomics of a foot locker. They just don’t get it.

    7. Cho says:

      So in this brave new world of yours people will suddenly stop working in offices, won’t need to look at or store paper documents (computerization has increased paper use) and will stop drinking coffee so they can completely do away with horizontal surfaces. Interesting. I think you’re wrong.

      I think people will always want a horizontal surface with integrated physical storage. Why not have an adjustable and removable top surface that acts as an input/output device? Why not take the iPhone idea and give it a screen 5 or even 25 times as large? Give yourself the ability to spread out, open books, scatter files, sketch out ideas, sign important documents and store that steaming hot cup of java. Lose that presentation remote and use anything from a TV remote to a cheap laser pointer to change slides and wow your audience with animated sequences.

      Microsoft Surface is huge, heavy, power hungry and has all the ergonomics of a foot locker. They just don’t get it.

      David, I think you totally misunderstood my post.

      I was arguing against the direct mapping of a physical office desktop to a computer desktop. Just because in the past and currently we have physical desk spaces where we put books etc. does not mean that a simple analogy of comptuerising/digitizing that physical space would work. In other words, because my desk is say 3 feet by 6 feet and I work with books on it does not mean that an adequate replacement for that actual desk is a 3 feet by 6 feet computer where all my documents suddenly are digitised and I no longer have use for actual paper.

      The computer can be understood as a new medium and we can work with that differently.

      Put it more crudely: because my physical books have pages that flip from right to left does not mean an appropriate digital book needs to actually flip from right to left. We can imagine other ways of reading texts digitally. Right?

      Anyone remember the Honeywell Kitchen computer? http://infohost.nmt.edu/~val/kitchen.html It was essentially a big table top computer that came with a cutting board and the comptuer was only good for storing recipes. It in no way made working in the kitchen or organising the kitchen any easier because well, I think it stuck too closely to a metaphor that it wasn’t suitable for.

    8. What about fixing the annoying behaviour of Finder – and many other programs – freezing for 20 minuntes if you by mistake unplug the network cable without unmounting network volumes. THAT would seal the deal for me..

      I would only hope — and this is a matter of faith — that the Leopard Finder addresses these performance issues, and it’s not just about the interface.

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. David W says:

      David, I think you totally misunderstood my post.

      I was arguing against the direct mapping of a physical office desktop to a computer desktop. Just because in the past and currently we have physical desk spaces where we put books etc. does not mean that a simple analogy of comptuerising/digitizing that physical space would work. In other words, because my desk is say 3 feet by 6 feet and I work with books on it does not mean that an adequate replacement for that actual desk is a 3 feet by 6 feet computer where all my documents suddenly are digitised and I no longer have use for actual paper.

      The computer can be understood as a new medium and we can work with that differently.

      Put it more crudely: because my physical books have pages that flip from right to left does not mean an appropriate digital book needs to actually flip from right to left. We can imagine other ways of reading texts digitally. Right?

      Anyone remember the Honeywell Kitchen computer? http://infohost.nmt.edu/~val/kitchen.html It was essentially a big table top computer that came with a cutting board and the comptuer was only good for storing recipes. It in no way made working in the kitchen or organising the kitchen any easier because well, I think it stuck too closely to a metaphor that it wasn’t suitable for.

      I hate to keep dragging this on here, but I still feel my point has been missed.

      The replacement for your 3 foot by 6 foot desk with a wooden or glass top is a 3 foot by 6 foot desk with an interactive top.

      It’s still a desk for working with real physical things like files, books, pens and cups of coffee. The glass surface makes it spill proof and easy to clean. In addition to using it for all the things you use a desk for today you’ll be able to use it to interact with your computer. It will eliminate the need for an LCD display and mouse. Given tactile feedback it could even eliminate the physical keyboard.

      Even if we have the ability to interact with our future computers by simply waving our hands in the air, having an interactive desktop where digital documents and paper ones can sit side by side would be beneficial.

      I look forward to the day when I can scribble notes directly on the surface of my desk, something I haven’t done since my grade school classmates were carving 4 letter words into theirs.

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