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  • Waiting For Leopard Book I: Kiss Your Old Mac Goodbye!

    October 16th, 2007

    Now that Apple’s latest feline is days away from arriving in your city, or at your home or office, I’m sure many of you are going to be thoroughly digesting Apple’s officially certified list of 316 new features to see which ones please you.

    Indeed, there’s probably plenty of meat for anyone, whether you’re a consumer, business user or programmer. There are lots of across-the-board changes and enhancements extending from the surface to the guts of the system that promise improved ease-of-use and greater security.

    When Leopard arrives here, I’ll be installing it and working through the weekend to deliver one of the early reviews, which will appear as a Special Report in our weekly Tech Night Owl Newsletter. So if you subscribe, you’ll get an advanced look — and it’s free of course. Just enter your email address and click Subscribe on the top of this page.

    Of course, it goes without saying that my Macs should have no problem whatever with Leopard. But I can’t say the same for some of you, who are going to be disappointed by the fact that your Mac isn’t eligible for the Leopard upgrade. According to the latest system requirements, if you have a G4 with less than an 867MHz processor, forget about it. You’re not on the short list.

    This may come as a surprise to some of you who hoped that only the G3 would be discarded to history’s dustbin. Indeed maybe it is possible to induce Leopard to install anyway on some of the “lesser” versions of the G4, perhaps with an updated version of Ryan Rempel’s XPostFacto utility, which allows you to install Mac OS X on unsupported models. But that doesn’t mean performance is going to be acceptable to you. Although Leopard holds the promise of snappier performance on supported models, the same may not be said for other Macs.

    Why this should be can probably be quickly discerned from the laundry list of new features, which show lots and lots of eye-candy sure to tax a lesser processor, or perhaps the elementary graphic cards on slower Macs. Indeed, some of the Core Animation effects in Time Machine and other Leopard applications may simply refuse to run, or run with a lesser range of special effects.

    This is apt to remind you of the Windows Vista situation, where the highly-touted Aero interface, with its 3D overkill, simply won’t function on anything but a high-performance graphics card. A PC box older than a year is considered a poor candidate for the complete Vista experience.

    So it may well be that Apple has decided that it doesn’t want anyone to get less than a complete Leopard environment. There is but one version, which Apple, in a snide aside to Microsoft, calls “Ultimate.” There are no basic versions, and no graphically-crippled user experiences. What you see is what you get, so long as your Mac is officially supported. You will never be a second-class citizen with Apple.

    Too bad for Windows users that Microsoft doesn’t seem to feel that way.

    Although the news that millions of Macs can’t run Leopard may be saddening to some of you, bear in mind that we’re talking about about excluding models that are mostly more than four years old. That’s not so bad a deal, considering all the millions of units that have shipped since then. Moreover, Leopard will probably remain a current operating system for another two or three years, which will give time for many of you to upgrade your old computers and buy something new with Mac OS 10.5 preloaded.

    Of course, it’s easy to indulge in conspiratorial thinking about the non-unexpected turn of events. Maybe Apple really didn’t seriously consider ways to make Leopard run acceptably on those abandoned Macs, because it wants to sell you a new computer. Obviously, Apple makes the lion’s share of its money on hardware sales. Industry analysts suggest that Leopard will contribute some $250 million to Apple’s coffers during this quarter. That doesn’t sound too shabby, but now that Apple is expected to earn over $6 billion during the same period, it’s really a drop in the bucket, relatively speaking. It will, of course, cover R&D for Leopard and then some, so Apple’s could, if it wanted, give Leopard upgrades away free of charge. But Apple monetizes everything, so there isn’t a chance that they’d consider such a move for even a nanosecond.

    However, when you consider the costs of a Windows Vista upgrade, particularly the Ultimate version, Apple’s price structure seems incredibly cheap. If you want to be street legal for more than one system in your home, in fact, you can buy a five-pack for $199. With Windows, there’s a critical reason for buying extra “seats” of Vista, and that is that only one computer can be activated with each user license. No activation, and your installation self-destructs into a very limited mode after 30 days.

    Yes, Microsoft surely knows how to grow its bottom line and ensure that 80% profit it garners on Windows licenses.

    I do hope, though, that Leopard won’t come with a serial number or online activation scheme. I’m sure nobody wants Apple to be influenced by Microsoft in that fashion, although I suppose it’s tempting. No, I better not give Apple any fancy ideas. Just forget I said that!

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