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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 25, 2007 at 10:26 AM

Pogueberg on Apple’s Leopard

Walt Mossberg and David Pogue both like Leopard, Apple’s new operating system going on sale Friday, but they weren’t blown away and they each had a few niggles.

It’s not surprising that the OS is considered evolutionary and not revolutionary — and that Pogue found a few bugs — since Apple struggled over the past year to get both the software and the iPhone done on time. It diverted engineers from Leopard to get the phone done on schedule, and it’s releasing the OS too late for the back-to-school season.

For a change, Leopard doesn’t seem to be creating any significant gap between the capabilities of the operating systems from Microsoft and Apple.

Still, it sounds like there are enough new features to persuade Apple users to upgrade.

There’s also enough of a cloud around Vista that Leopard will probably lure more potential Windows buyers.

Here are some highlights from the two influential reviewers’ Leopard reviews.

Mossberg:

While Apple claims the new system includes more than 300 new features, there is nothing on the list that could be considered startling or a major breakthrough. Some of Leopard’s features are unique, but many others — such as backing up data and quickly viewing files — have been available on both Windows and the Mac via third-party programs or hard-to-find geeky methods buried in the operating systems. Leopard has made them easy to find and use.

Pogue:

Apple’s Web site lists 300 new features in Leopard. They’re not all earth-shattering; they include a Braille font, a “Word of the Day” screen saver and a Danish spelling checker. (Settle down, folks.)

Fortunately, others really do make you slap your head and say, “Of course!”

Both were surprisingly critical of Leopard’s interface design. They said its transparent menus can be hard to read depending on the background, and Mossberg said the icons aren’t as nice as Vista’s or the previous Mac OS.

Pogue’s take:

Often, Apple’s snazzy graphics are justifiable because they make the Mac more fun to use. In this case, though, nothing is gained, and much is lost.

But both reviewers are still fans, though, and they contrasted Leopard with weak spots of Vista PCs.

Pogue noted that Leopard doesn’t come cluttered with trial software and nagging notification balloons. Mossberg did side-by-side speed tests that highlighted Vista’s slow startup — nearly two minutes — vs. Leopard’s speedy 38-second Le Mans start.

Both liked the Time Machine backup program. Lots of people are using a variety of backup programs and extra hard-drives for backup nowadays. Dell in particular has a fairly standard option that adds a second drive to constantly and automatically mirror your data.

I haven’t used it yet, but the big advance in Time Machine seems to be the simplified process of recovering files after a crash — you visually skim through snapshots of your backups and choose where you’d like to resume.

Pogue also found glitches that I’m guessing resulted from the stress Apple’s engineering team faced, trying to develop Leopard simultaneous with the iPhone.

Graciously acknowledging the challenges of building today’s super complicated operating systems, Pogue noted “the usual minor set of 1.0 bugs” and “a few programs and add-ons that will need updates to run in Leopard.”

The story I’d like to read, though, is what Apple would have included in Leopard if it had more time.

In particular, Apple still hasn’t built in features for recording televisionlike premium versions of Vista. That could have revived the AppleTV product and led to some interesting playback options with the iPhone and iPod.

Comments | More in | Topics: Apple

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