The Coming Leopard Letdown

by Hadley Stern Aug 29, 2007

John Gruber has branched out from his usually excellent blog, Daring Fireball and has started writing for Macworld. I say good for him (yes, I’m a little jealous, I always thought my words would be good there!). Although I hope the contract doesn’t include doing nothing but heaping praise on Apple. That would be unfortunate. Here at Apple Matters we always try to balance being fans of Apple but also remaining critical. Sure this means we recently got cut off from Media badge access, but in the long term I think its the best thing for Apple. If Apple’s greatest fans don’t tell Apple what they are doing wrong then who will?

Which lead me to John’s Recent column, The new frontier Mac OS X is a mature technology; the iPhone is anything but. John’s basic thesis is that the iPhone is the new frontier for innovation for Apple and not OS X. If this is true this is a damn shame, and instead of just observing it John should criticize it, instead he says,

...OS X 10.4 is so fundamentally good that future upgrades are likely to be on the scale of small refinements.


And the simple truth is that OS X doesn’t need an interface revolution.

This is just pure fanboyism at its best.

Look, I love OS X. And I’m with John that when it first came out it was awful, and that Tiger is currently an excellent operating system. But I don’t just expect refinements from Apple (and I certainly don’t expect to part with $129 for it) I expect innovation. And John’s metaphor of tying it to the car industry is equally egregious. Even car manufactures, every few years or so, completely refresh their designs. Is John saying that OS X is forever going to have minor adjustments and that is ok?

It great that Apple is focussing a lot of innovation energy on the iPhone. I love the iPhone, heck, I even called it perfect! (I guess there is a bit of a fanboy in me too). But to do that at the expense of the operating system would be a shame. I have used the beta of Leopard extensively (and legally I might add) and for the most part it falls within the refinement area. It is faster, smoother, and the OS details are more consistent. It has spaces (which is nothing new), a horribly-rendered title bar image-thingy (which makes me think someone hired a UI designer from Redmond) and some other stuff I can’t remember right now. But what it doesn’t offer is anything really new, and this is a shame.

Perhaps Apple ought to divide up its OS stream in two. One focussing on what John calls the refinements, and the other focussing on innovation. All I know is that if all we can expect from Apple right now is John’s visions of refinements for OS X the company, in the long-term, will be in trouble.


  • OSX is an primarily an enabling platform and Apple’s primary job is to provide new capabilities for developers to do their magic. Apple leverages these developers to enhance the overall platform for us the consumer… a pyramid if you will. And that is mostly what 64bit Leopard is all about. Sure, they’ve thrown in some eye candy and more than a few consumer level enhancements but the heavy lifting as always will be done by third party developers. And that’s where the real magic of Leopard will come from, especially in the form of Core Animation.

    I believe we will see a real shift in UI in the coming two years. Core Animation is in ways similar to Apple’s previous technology, Core Image, which basically allows even novice developers to add hundreds of PhotoShop style image manipulation effects to their applications. Core Animation far surpasses the possibilities of Core Image in ways that will become clear. It will allow novice developers such as myself to create full blown particle based animations (as opposed to Vector based animation like Flash) within their applications and other media. What would normally take a team of highly seasoned developers a week to create can now be done by a newbie in an afternoon. But this is nothing compared to what it means to the end user.

    First, the produced animations are not post-production video, but rather real-time renderings. Second, they are fully user-interactive (like Flash). Third, they have real 3D physics and particle rendering built in (unlike Flash). Fourth, they can be sequenced from small instruction sets (think bandwidth). Fifth, you are limited only by your imagination (unlike Flash which has many visual limitations)

    So, what exactly does this all mean to us everyday folk? It means that the operating system can now be 3D animated with whatever optimal interface you can conceive of (Time-Machine was built with Core Animation… and that’s just the beginning).  it means our applications can be fully 3D animated, providing amazing functionality never before possible. And perhaps in the future, it means that websites, internet entertainment, internet ads, and internet applications can be streamed and rendered to our desktops in full 3D real-time animation at reasonable bandwidth requirements.

    Of course there is a little thing called Windows, but likewise, there is also a little thing called Quicktime which is fairly ubiquitous and could serve as the parser to Core Animation’s rich features. The future implications of this are far reaching and could drastically change the competitive dynamics between Apple and Microsoft, as rich internet applications become more and more common.

    Finally, being that we’re talking real-time rendered 3D animation, this means it would then be possible to implement VR interfaces using stereographic headsets and monitors. And at higher bandwidths, fully immersive VR movies could be streamed into our living rooms (perhaps in 3 to 5 years as that would require higher bandwidth). But it seems to me that Apple is paving the way to make what we’ve grown accustomed to in Science Fiction for so many years finally become a reality.

    What does Vista offer… a cheap imitation of Aqua called Aero and a parred down version of Spotlight… after how long? It’s laughable!

    As for future MacOS advancements…

    - Built in flawless speech recognition
    - More Natural Speech (Leopard is a significant leap forward already)
    - Introducing some basic AI (don’t think for a minute their not working on it)
    - Social Networking concepts brought to the desktop level (perhaps through iLife - think iPhoto/Flickr or iMovie/YouTube)
    - You’ll see a greater blurring of desktop and web (beyond widgets)
    - You’ll see consumer level development tools (beyond iCode and Automater) based on a modular platform allowing custom apps to be built from a pool of thousands of community contributed modules as well as Apple’s provided modules… think CoreApp.
    - I’m sure there are more examples of what’s to come… just ask a few more geeks like myself.

    brasicano had this to say on Aug 29, 2007 Posts: 1
  • John Gruber has a valid perspective, i think. Though he may not have written it as clearly as one might. The lifecycle of a product, a machine… a technology is not easily viewed from so close.  Most in the industry, or who are leading its development often fail to see the long view out of their self-imposed box. The power of today’s machines is nothing short of amazing. But what is its best use? Efficiency may be a good word. Yet it is not enough. In the end, most users of the technology find value in the saving of their most valuable and finite commodity… time. M$ with Vista™ have mostly forgotten that. Apple and OS X have not, thanks to good leadership on the part of Apple. It is not how much the technology does for you or how pretty it looks,. its value is in how much it does for you in the least amount of your time—and the learning curve is a good part of that.
    Little snippets of time saved add up to much more time for other things and to do more things with the technology for that matter. This is the essence of apple… they make it possible for one to do things in an ever shortening snippet of time.
    You can think of your own examples of how apple products that do this for you. But this is why Apple is successful and will continue to be until they lose their way. But just adding stuff—bloat, just to give the marketing staff some fodder to sell to glazed eyed droolers without the ultimate concern… does it save time?— is just plain foolish.

    Davio had this to say on Aug 30, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Wow, look at all those comments, seems like Hadley found the live wire this time wink

    I will not dive into discussing Leopard since I have not seen it yet outside the video demos, but it does sound promising in some regards. The more disturbing issue from my perspective is that Apple is probably going to unleash the iPhone upon Europe next week, and the wretched thing still

    - has no copy’n'paste
    - does not support BT transfers to other phones
    - cannot fully sync with Apple’s own iCal

    Issues which are all critical and have much more letdown appeal than any OS X update.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Aug 30, 2007 Posts: 371
  • Or let’s rather say “letdown potential”.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Aug 30, 2007 Posts: 371
  • Beaver,

    The iPhone is running OS X and has ties to Leopard. My guess is that many of these issues will be resolved when Leopard ships later this year. As for support for cut and paste, I’m not sure if this is really in the works.

    Apples current strategy is to anticipate when you’d want to cut and paste and provide a simpler alternative that wouldn’t require attempting to select text using your finger or without cluttering the current UI with additional menus. Examples include Phone numbers that are automatically converted to links in Safari and MobielMail and emailing URLs by simply clicking “Share” in the URL bar.

    In my own experience, I’m surprised by how much I don’t miss cut and paste since I don’t use the iPhone as a replacement for a computer.

    Guess we’ll have to wait until the first big update is released.

    Scott had this to say on Aug 30, 2007 Posts: 144
  • Quick Look looks awesome! Will save some time.

    Neil Anderson had this to say on Aug 30, 2007 Posts: 23
  • Page 2 of 2 pages  <  1 2
You need log in, or register, in order to comment