- The Tech Night Owl — Cutting-Edge Tech Commentary - https://www.technightowl.com -

The Leopard Report: It’s All About Customer Satisfaction

One thing is perfectly clear and that’s the fact that most Mac users who have upgraded to Leopard are quite satisfied with that decision. Surveys show over 80%, which is extremely good, particularly when you compare the levels recorded with Windows.

What do I mean?

Well, Windows XP gets a pretty decent rate too, but Vista is down in the dumps, with only a little more than a quarter of the upgraders reporting decent levels of satisfaction.

Now consider that Leopard has been out just short of five months, whereas it’s been nearly 14 months since Vista shipped to consumers. During that time, Microsoft has had plenty of time to fix the worst ills. True, there have been lots of obtuse updates, and, of course, the infamous Service Pack One that’s now becoming available for download. But the early reviews of SP1 don’t seem promising. Sure, there are loads of under-the-hood changes, and perhaps application and driver compatibility is improved, but the core problems with the bloated Vista operating system are still there. It’s still slow and it still requires an extremely powerful PC to provide the full user experience, complete with Aero eye-candy.

Consider that Microsoft squandered billions of dollars developing Vista, but they couldn’t get it out on time, nor with all the promised features intact. In fact, during the final stages of Vista’s development, it has been revealed that MIcrosoft had to kowtow to Intel to build a “Home Basic” edition that would allow entry-level PCs, using older chipsets, to be declared as capable of running the system.

Now I don’t pretend to know all the internal decisions and compromises Microsoft had to make in order to finish up Vista. Certainly they were under an awful lot of pressure, and it’s no longer true that they can just do what they want and the rest of the personal computing world will follow in lockstep. Antitrust actions have surely changed that situation for good.

However, Microsoft must have known the product roadmaps for both AMD and Intel early on, and realized the level of computing power needed to get Vista to run in a satisfactory fashion was far too high. They had to also realize that Mac OS X can run on a wide variety of Apple hardware, dating back as much as four to six years, with all or most features intact. It’s not as if Microsoft doesn’t know what Apple is doing, since their Mac Business Unit is one of the largest — if not the largest — third-party Mac developer. They’re getting Apple’s prelease seeds as quickly as Adobe, Quark and all the rest, maybe even sooner.

Armed with that knowledge, is it plain incompetence that dictated Vista’s direction, or a level of hubris that is totally beyond logic? Maybe Microsoft was filled with the images of people lining up to buy Windows 95 upgrades and forgot to look at the calendar, forgetting that was long ago and far away.

Yes, there will be another Windows, known as Windows 7, which will appear some time in 2009, 2010 or maybe later. Perhaps Microsoft is working really hard behind the scenes to recover from the Vista disaster, and perhaps the next version of Windows will focus more on cleaning up the excesses. Or maybe MIcrosoft figures that, by then, most PC hardware will comfortably cope with massive system requirements without buckling under the pressure.

This is not to say that Leopard is necessarily the perfect operating system. Aside from some of the excesses perpetrated by some of the Mac troubleshooting sites these days, there are still genuine problems that need to be fixed. For example, AirPort connections can, at times, still be flaky, although it’s not at all certain whether the fix requires a Leopard update or an AirPort fix.

Other issues include persistent flakiness with cross-platform networking, something that was also prevalent in Tiger and not fixed until the very end of the latter’s lifecycle.

Some of you claim that Leopard crashes more often than Tiger, or at least the applications you run, but that might just be the fault of the third parties who still need to bring their products up to date. Unfortunately, when things like that happen, it’s awfully easy for the affected software company to just blame Apple, claim that some change or incomplete feature in Leopard has caused them grief, and it’ll take time to sort things out.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers, so I won’t blame anyone. I just want things to work, and when it comes to that, I rarely encounter any crashes in Leopard. It seems, to me at least, to be about as stable as Tiger, if not more so. Performance is noticeably snappier, no doubt the result of hard work to improve the Finder’s performance, which remains the linchpin of the Mac user experience.

As always, our Comments section is open for your repsonses. This time, I also want to hear from Windows users. As much as some of you hate Microsoft products, millions of businesses depend on Windows for their core operations. We all benefit if everything works fine, and suffer when things fail.