Mac OS X Leopard: Just a Pretty Vista Knockoff

by Tanner Godarzi Nov 02, 2007

Let me say this now: Leopard is good for an upgrade, but there is no wow, nothing that would excite me to switch to a Mac when compared to Tiger. It’s merely an OS update that was       meant to fill the evolutionary void and is reminiscent of Vista: delays, “overhauled” interface as a touted feature, and not many compelling features that would really make you want to upgrade.

And yes, I am comparing Mac OS X Leopard to Windows Vista, but please put your pitchforks and burning weapons down for a moment. I’ve been playing with Leopard since Saturday and there are some things I do like about this update, but before I start echoing other bloggers, I have to lay down the similarities here between Cupertino’s OS and Redmond’s main competitor.

Just Another Pretty Face 
Leopard, like Vista, has been pushed back so a usable product can be released to the masses, but outside developments show how much of a toll other priorities can take.
Vista was delayed not due to a massive code rewrite as previously speculated but due to code compatibility issues, primarily with 3rd parties. A valid reason, but we can see the effects of the delay today in an evolutionary upgrade void of features that would make someone’s mouth drop. I am not dissing Vista in any way (as much as some of you may want me to) but it filled in a peg in the ladder which was enough for Microsoft and their user base.
The same can be applied to Leopard. Apple needed more resources to develop their iPhone platform, which was an OS X install stripped down for a radically different computing environment. Making OS X play nice with the iPhone was no easy task, but a monumental one; plus the ongoing development put strains on Apple’s development team, causing them to push their shipping date back twice.
As with Vista, what caused the delays has left its mark on the next generation OS, and while it may pique the interests of developers, it’s not as tempting as Tiger was to Panther users or Jaguar to Classic users. Leopard was meant to fill in a gaping void, but Apple delivered with minimal results (from an average user’s perspective), making the decision to upgrade a debatable choice.

No “Wow”
While Steve Jobs gallantly gave his keynote during WWDC ‘06, he taunted Microsoft’s efforts in developing Vista with his own herculean team and crack shots at the Redmond based company. Although only 10 features were shown off in fear that Vista would somehow mimic Leopard blow for blow, it’d be the best thing we’d get from a “wow” standpoint.
Time Machine, full 64 Bit compatability, Core Animation, and Mail Stationery are all worthy additions to the Mac platform, but how it was presented during WWDC left us wanting more. We interpreted these 10 somewhat notable additions as an appetizer in preparation for the full course, one that would totally blow anything Apple had shipped before out of the water.
Sadly this would not come to be. These 10 additions would be bunched in with Steve’s “Top Secret Features” and regurgitated next year before Leopard’s second publicly announced delay.
Notice the similarity now between the two OSes? Other priorities can really scatter any progress made on a project, something Apple and Microsoft have had to learn the hard way.
The “wow” factor lacks in Leopard. Sure Time Machine rocks—its automated backups and those new stationery templates in Mail will truly revolutionize how I write email—but Steve left us wanting for more and more then left some of us hanging, mouths gaping in either despair or astonishment.

More Evolutionary Than Revolutionary
Leopard unintentionally filled a void created by the previous OS release before it to continue the evolutionary chain without disruption. And that’s just what Leopard is, an evolution of OS X rather than a revolution.
Apple has continually stepped up their game by making OS X more and more appealing to the average user and hard core Mac geek alike, but they’ve delved from that normal path to focus more on developers. This isn’t bad in any sense, and Leopard is by no means something thrown together in order to meet the bare minimum requirements.
It was something that needed to happen, to fill in the needs and wants of certain users, and Apple did that by throwing developers a bone and making Leopard more friendly for 3rd parties.

Major Changes
However, Leopard has undergone significant changes which will eventually outpace the PowerPC platform and reduce it to nothing more than a ball and chain to an archaic means of using a Mac. Leopard will pave the road for truly great things when Apple utilizes Intel processors to their full extent.

Leopard resembles iTunes in appearance, which is a great direction to go in for many reasons. But in my opinion, Apple may have taken it a bit too far by making it a complete clone of the popular media management application.
First off, iTunes is easy to use, it’s simple and does what it does well while being able to handle your digital life without much fuss. Incorporating iTunes’ interface within the Finder is a logical decision to aid switchers in grasping the Mac platform while retaining some familiarity with Windows.
Having an easy to use and universal interface accessible anywhere is a selling point considering it’s based off an application that millions of people use and love. This allows Apple to tout iTunes as Mac OS X for Windows with the Mac, a sandbox for users to prepare or persuade them to switch.
Although radically different, the unification of every window to resemble iTunes does get annoying after some time, coupled with the default space-like theme thrust upon you from the start. Brushed metal is no more, with darker grays that will stand out even though they’re clones of one another with little differentiation.
That is Finder. The other big overhaul is the Dock. Apple has touted the Dock as the central location for everything you need to access quickly and a much more efficient alternative to the task bar. Continuing this trend, the Dock is more prominent than before by consuming more space and delving from its original intentions of simplicity.
This new glassy Dock is visually appealing and adds a bit of flare and realism to your Mac. Stacks, on the other hand, being exclusive to the Dock, reasserts its authority as your Mac’s control center. Files and folders can be accessed from the Dock without much hassle, but this functionality existed long ago, Leopard only made it visually appealing. By dragging a folder down to the Dock, you could click and hold to access its contents in list form, and anything could be launched from here as well. Stacks is nothing more than a glorified version of this concept, but crippled in that less items are shown.
RSS: Really Simple Suffering
Tiger brought forth Safari 2 and RSS support. Leopard has stepped it up a notch and brought in its A-game for information aggregation. Your data can be manipulated faster than before but is thrown in your face so many times, although useful, I’ve dubbed it RSS, Really Simple Suffering.
The suffering in this case is good, it’s information you want to see and have at your finger tips but it’s aggregated so simply it requires not attention until some app starts popping in your face to remind you about 3:30 PM Dentist Appointment and that you need to plot the directions on your iPhone.
But Apple has taken a different approach to centralizing functions into Applications by fusing Web based elements with traditional methods of manipulating data. I’m talking about Safari, iCal, .Mac and Mail. All 3 involve publishing and aggregating content to and fro across multiple Macs. RSS feeds are now accessible within not only Safari but also Mail, the purpose of this I do not know but it possibly has to do with information overload when it comes to one Application handling everything.
But it doesn’t stop there: Apple has taken this up a notch by syncing all this data to make it even more redundant (nothing wrong with that!). Most of this is being done through .Mac which was recently revamped to accommodate the new changes in Leopard.
Dock Items, Widgets, System Preferences, Notes ,and Calendars are synced across every registered Mac, but it gets better. While syncing all this data may be great, Back to my Mac and iChat screen sharing make it even better by providing seamless access to your data no matter where you are.

Multitasking under OS X is made easier with Spaces. Although it seems simple in its current incarnation, the app’s usefulness is unprecedented.
By providing up to 16 virtual spaces for your Apps to reside and launch in, you can organize your workflow to increase productivity. My current setup is having one scratch Space for miscellaneous applications. My 2nd is for Mail, iCal, iChat, and Stickies, the 3rd for Safari, the 4th for any text editors such as iWork and Text Edit, plus the 5th being utilized for media utilities such as Quicktime, Visual Hub, iTunes, and Front Row.
Not a bad combo, but your mileage will vary. What makes Spaces exceed where others have failed is that it’s very, very responsive with little notice that you have actually switched to a different space. The fluidity in which Spaces functions make this a worthy App.
Knowing that each section is not an extra screen but a self contained environment for individual applications, but also having access to everything no matter where you are fools you into thinking you’re not even running Spaces, it’s that good!

Hesitant Upgraders
I have experienced no flaws with Leopard besides the usual “It’ll run better if you have a fast Mac,” but the biggest flaw is that it isn’t good enough for some users.
Leopard opens a new avenue for developers to create truly awesome applications, but besides under the hood improvements, it’s less than tempting to upgrade if Time Machine and the newly revamped Finder aren’t enough to convince you.
But here’s the thing: you’ll be forced to upgrade to Leopard if nothing else. Developers are creating Leopard-only applications and although few in number, it’ll spread quickly. It becomes harder and harder to support older Operating Systems when newer features are unavailable. It comes down to “Do I support the greater number of users who have Leopard and make a better application or support almost everyone but take out features?”
This choice has already been made, and Leopard will be the minimum option for applications.
But that leaves a group of users who are reluctant to upgrade and soon to be without support for newer applications. It’s a delicate balance, as you have to please the average user to upgrade while appealing to developers. It’s something hard to do, but Leopard won’t be the Operating System that causes a shift; Macs will come with Leopard by default and it’ll be an inevitable choice. The ones holding out are those who have hardware that functions but won’t run Leopard.

Leopard is a great Operating System and will excite developers more than the normal user. But these new features, although good, aren’t great due to delays and being spoiled early on. I am not dissing Leopard, but this is something that had to happen, and while it was touted as a Vista competitor, it’s more of a pretty knockoff in that Leopard won’t convince you to switch if Tiger didn’t and the “Wow” factor is lacking.


  • I can understand end users feeling disappointed with Leopard’s initial showing, considering the degree of hype that was associated with its release.

    But the job of someone writing an analysis essay is to show a bit more nouse than the hypothetical “completely clueless end user” who has no idea about the true value of what has been updated. What on Earth is the point of running an article that merely espouses the lowest common denominator of uninformed, superficial impressions. EDUCATE us, dammit! From an informed perspective, even slightly so, it is absolutely clear that Leopard is the most significant update to Mac OS X of all.

    I suggest reading John Siracusa’s review, if anyone has an interest in getting a viewpoint with any merit to it whatsoever.

    What a complete and utter waste of words—and everyone’s time.

    Benji had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 927
  • Sorry, I should qualify that, re-reading, this review has some useful points.

    But it is a very, very poor attempt at critically appraising the comparative value of What’s Changed In Leopard.

    Benji had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 927
  • @Benji, I’m sorry if you think this is my actual review, I still have more, a lot more coming on the way smile

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 70
  • In general, I agree with Benji, there’s not much value in this article. I particularly don’t appreciate the blatantly teasing nature of the title.

    Now, to my point: Is it me or does the opening statement make no sense whatsoever?

    “Leopard is [...] nothing that would excite me to switch to a Mac when compared to Tiger”

    You are either switching to a Mac (i.e. you’re comparing Leopard with a different OS like Windows or Linux) or you’re comparing it with Tiger (which means you are ALREADY on a Mac running Tiger). In my mind, the article doesn’t even begin to recover after that.

    Delays: Regardless of Vista delays measured in years and Leopard’s in months, it is a moot point now, they’re both here. Delays are a result of marketing eagerness and the normal process of software development (things usually take longer than initially planned). When using the software, none of that makes a difference, you’re using it now.

    No “wow”: It doesn’t matter what Steve Jobs said wherever and whenever, find somebody that didn’t hear about Time Machine before (it’s not that hard, just look outside your usual circle) and explain it to them. You’ll hear the “wow”. Do the same with smart folders, quickview, etc., etc.

    Evo vs. Revo: This ties back to your opening statement. If you’re comparing it to Tiger, it’s evolutionary. Compared to Windows (any version), it’s revolutionary. Again, make up your mind and compare it to one of the two, not both in an obtuse way.

    The rest of the article, honestly, confused me. In many cases I couldn’t figure out if the author was for or against the Leopard feature being discussed, specially in the RSS section.

    All those paragraphs starting with “But…” are all over the place. The subtitle says “suffering”, but later the text says “suffering is good”. Then it calls it redundant, and later says “nothing wrong with that”. Is that statement sarcastic? I couldn’t figure it out, and I don’t think it even matters…

    Tanner, no offense, I think you should recall that article and rewrite it with a clearer focus. It’s a good thing it’s not written in paper, take advantage of that.

    Mark_Intosh had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 1
  • It’s a mistake to compare Leopard to Vista.  Leopard is evolutionary to be sure, but it’s evolving from Tiger which predates Vista, so I don’t see how Leopard is copying Vista at all.  They’re on different tracks with Leopard carrying forth the heritage of Mac OS X which began 7 years ago.  Where was Vista then?

    As for there being nothing for users, you better spend more time with the applications like Mail, iChat, Address Book, iCal.  The collaborative and interconnected new features of these apps are welcome for people who want to get more work done quickly and easily.

    Check out smart dates in the body of an email.  They highlight when you roll your cursor over them and they can be made into events in your calendar.  That’s not only cool, but damned useful.

    HG had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 7
  • Leopard isn’t revolutionary per se, but some things in it will cause a revolution in users’ practices. Time Machine being the obvious one - a majority of users will now have some sort of reasonable backup! Now that’s a revolution.

    What I’m enjoying about using Leopard (tho on Tiger as I write), is discovering all the little things that didn’t make the 300 list. One of my faves so far is BCC addresses in *sent* mail are now visible to the sender.

    I also like the RSS in Mail. Prefer it there to Safari.

    Of course, I am also finding little annoyances, like Time Machine only backs up the partition Leopard is installed on. I keep my music and photos on a separate partition, so they’re not getting backed up. Likewise I’d like to have TM backup my data files on my iPod (5GB worth from my design course).

    Anyway, better stop or I’ll have nothing left to write next week.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Well Apple Matters, I have officially deleted my Apple Matters bookmark. The articles here for the past year just don’t have any meaning. And I’ve posted a few times in the past on certain ones.  This one is part of them.

    So you just have the name Apple in your name for the hits it will get you?

    This site is just unreadable now.


    mozart11 had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 35
  • Leopard isn’t revolutionary per se, but some things in it will cause a revolution in users’ practices

    I agree with that appraisal.

    In general, though, I would characterize ‘causing a revolution’ as ‘being revolutionary’. raspberry

    Bye, mozart.

    Benji had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 927
  • I guess what you are saying is that if Windows users didn’t already see the merit of switching to Tiger, than nothing new in Leopard would change their mind. (That is if they share your values.)

    While you can argue that Leopard has no earth-shattering new features (Tiger already had the wow factor that Vista was missing ), Apple did make lots of small improvements that make using a Mac even nicer.  For some, new additions like data detectors, spaces, screen sharing or Time Machine will be godsends. Speed improvements to Finder and Spotlight were long overdue.  I don’t expect Apple to change the entire computing paradigm with each system release. It would only be disruptive.

    I believe that there are plenty of potential switchers (and owners of older Macs) who were anxiously waiting for Leopard’s release in order to have it come pre-installed on their new Macs.  For them Leopard will make the difference. As you say, developers will build on the improved foundation, and we can expect great new applications for the Mac.  Ultimately it’s the applications that will drive upgrades.

    Brett Sher had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 7
  • I stopped reading after this comment:

    Leopard, like Vista, has been pushed back so a usable product can be released to the masses, but outside developments show how much of a toll other priorities can take.”

    Yah, years vs. months… oranges vs. apples.

    mitchell_pgh had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 18
  • I’m afraid I have to agree with mozart. The articles on this site have, to be quite honest, gone far downhill since June. With their petty tone and attention-grabbing headlines, the articles sound like they’re being written by a completely different set of writers, one who has no clue how to write clearly and fairly.

    I’m no fanboy—I appreciate objective journalism, like the Ars Technica review of Leopard, for example—but has surprisingly become the trashy tabloid of my RSS feed.

    Well, no longer. Good-bye and good riddance I’ll stick to TUAW, thank-you very much.

    baronkarza had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 2
  • “Delve” means to search inside something.  I think you mean “Diverge”.

    The OS may be evolutionary, but the applications is will spawn will be revolutionary.  There may be no compulsion to switch right now, but there will be.

    Hywel had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 51
  • Needed pad your click count, I see.

    What's the Frequency Kenneth? had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 11
  • Honestly Tanner (& Apple Matters), this is not the first time you’ve written a hopelessly muddled article. Just to begin with I think you really need to get them proof read by colleagues before you inflict them upon us. This is not good enough. It’s not that they’re grammatically poor, but logically…

    Like others I can’t tell if you’re for or against half the things you talk about Tanner. You use of language is emotive, yet your details fail to convey the same meaning: you use a provocative title, but really the article isn’t about how Leopard is a Vista knockoff at all.

    Then there’s the plain mistakes that others have pointed out. To suggest Leopard is a Vista knockoff is quite ignorant. To compare the delays of the two OSes as remotely equivalent is equally daft, not to mention that the Leopard delays have not left the OS short. The few things that were dropped were trivial and I suspect you don’t even know what they are (e.g. wireless Time Machine).

    To be blunt, this article is a waste of time and space. Apple Matters needs to do much better if they’re to keep my interest (& other’s by the look of it). Note to Apple Matters: stop paying people with the writing skills of a young teenager to write articles. I can visit Bebo to read such drivel anytime.

    Peter Cole had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 7
  • I don’t see how Leopard is copying Vista at all.

    There’s the translucent-for-no-particular-reason menu bar and Time Machine to name a couple of things - enough that had those things been in Leopard first, the fanboys would be screeching.

    But to Apple’s credit, they made Time Machine usable.  In fact, Vista’s Shadow Copy isn’t even enabled on Home Premium.  And if it were, the feature itself is buried.  And of course, Microsoft never touted it as a feature at all, while hype is something Apple has never shied away from.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 02, 2007 Posts: 2220
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