a glob of nerdishness

October 30, 2007

Beyond Leopard

written by natevw @ 4:57 pm

On Friday, we upgraded Hannah’s Macbook to Leopard, and then packed for a funeral back in the Midwest. The Developer Tools stayed off, and I spent the available portions of the weekend as a regular user. Ignoring all the under-the-hood improvements, I’m not sure if I should be eager or worried for the future of OS X. I came back home disappointed in Leopard.

I’m not trying to say that I, and the other 2 million users who went out and bought Leopard last weekend, should have stuck with Tiger. Leopard is (or will be, after a few patches) a good upgrade for current Mac users. Combined with some gorgeous hardware, it offers a very tantalizing package to first time buyers.

The trouble is, the best improvements are mostly all under the hood. They’re invisible as they should be, and you can’t queue many end users willing to pay for a developer API update. Time Machine is the one killer feature, and while many the other additions are sure to be addicting, Apple needed a larger swatch of gateway drugs to make the sale. Which is probably why every other headline feature seems thrown in just to make Leopard look more valuable.

Finder is improved and QuickLook is handy — the latter being a good way to encourage third party developers to pitch in with the former — but nothing truly revolutionary. The Network folder is still present and still rubbish.

Stacks seemed like a cool feature, but it turns out those aren’t actually new. The “scoliosis” view can disturb physical therapy majors, and folks who used Tiger’s stack feature will miss the functional downgrades.

iChat’s cheesy effects appeal to…I dunno. People who enjoy getting into Photo Booth with friends but would rather not be in the same photo, or even the same “booth”, as said friends?

Spaces has so far been more confusing than helpful. I’m not sure if the typical end-user will even bother to turn it on.

The myriad minor improvements throughout the OS — faster Spotlight, no network share beachball of death — are currently outweighed by all the first-release glitches — countless little window manager, desktop and Finder bugs that come and go, rapid battery discharge with the lid closed, broken Safari web archives.

Of course, many of these issues should be resolved in forthcoming software updates. Perhaps some of the eleventh-hour feature removals will also find their way back in. Then users can start getting attached to another great release, one that enables some great third-party software. I wonder, though, what Apple is planning 12–18 months down the road for 10.6. Will they expect users to fall for bells, whistles and fixes, or do they have at least one more killer feature up their sleeve?

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