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Newsletter 412 Preview: Waiting for Leopard Book III: Just a Point-One Upgrade?

As Leopard approaches, you have to wonder whether even 300-plus new features and enhancements will be sufficient to sway the skeptics about its potential. You see, as far as software numbering schemes go, incrementing a single tenth of a point usually signifies a pretty insignificant update.

I mean, you can name most any application’s transition from, say 7.0 to 7.1, and the differences will be awfully minor. It may be a little more involved than a few bug fixes, but still nothing worth charging a full upgrade price.

In the 1990s, even Apple had larger increments in its numbering schemes. Take Mac OS 8.0 and 8.5. Not substantial in any respect. However, moving from System 7 to 8 gave Steve Jobs leverage to seriously inflate charges to those Mac OS clone companies, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of them. Otherwise, maybe 8.0 would probably have been 7.7.

But moving to 9.0 was the equivalent to a full version upgrade, with a price to match. Sure, there were only a handful of new features, but it was a decent marketing tool to keep the Mac OS alive under Mac OS X arrived.

In the scheme of things, it’s really hard to understand why Apple is so stingy with its numbering system for Mac OS X, except, perhaps, to postpone the inevitability of Mac OS 11. Indeed, based on Apple’s current operating system schedule, you won’t have to worry about that until the next decade.

Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter.