What If There Are No Top Secret Features in Leopard?

by Chris Howard Mar 28, 2007

Apple says Leopard is still on schedule for a spring 2007 launch. But when you do the math, you see that as the number of days until the end of spring (even the U.S. spring) decreases, the likely impressiveness and significance of the “top secret features” also decreases.

Apple wants you to believe that whatever these features are, because they are top secret, they must be revolutionary. Vista has been in the hands of consumers for a couple of months now, so it’s not like Microsoft can do a last minute upgrade to it, copying Leopard’s amazing new top secret features. So it kinda makes you start to wonder about just how great these features really are and why it’s taking so long to reveal them.

There are two types of features Apple could have up its sleeve: those that need long beta testing and those that can get away with a very short beta testing. The latter is greatly limited, and would suggest merely cosmetic changes.

The hottest tip for secret features is a revamped user interface. But is that nothing more than a skin? ShapeShifter can already do that for you. Predictions are that glossy black and bright colors, such as seen on the iPhone, will spread across OS X.

But is that a feature? Sure, it looks good. I’m running Opera with its glossy black color scheme (lix 1.5) and it certainly makes the rest of my GUI look out of date. But a feature? That’s borderline.

Wouldn’t you expect something that is top secret to be a bit more than a new look? Something that revolutionized the way you use your computer, that would be worth calling “top secret.” Yet I haven’t heard of any suggestions since Leopard’s preview that even come close to needing to be kept top secret.

Apple is planning a launch of something at NAB on the 15th of April. This would also be a good time to reveal these top secret features and give beta testers enough time to test them out before a WWDC launch. Although, I’d be disappointed if Leopard slipped out to WWDC, as I think it will take the edge off WWDC. Developers need some time for shipping Leopard before WWDC, or at least as close as possible to it. Launching at WWDC would kill that off and there’d be no momentum going into WWDC.

Even a new user interface, though, would require a fair amount of beta testing, even if it is just a skin. There are plenty of ShapeShifter themes that still have problems. So again, Apple needs to reveal all soon if it wants to make a spring launch. You can imagine Apple staff will be working themselves into the ground. But Steve is fond of thanking their families for putting up with their long hours, so I guess that justifies it.

Could OS X go live without ever showing a new user interface? Never. But how late could they go without showing it? What other secret features could Apple release this late? What if there are no top secret features?

What if it was merely a marketing ploy to keep Leopard talked about favorably compared to Vista. Everyone has expected the top secret features will make Vista look so last year. It’s resulted in many reviews of Vista saying, “Vista is all well and good, but we’ll see how it compares when Leopard comes out.” If all the features of Leopard were already known, that comparison could already be made, which wouldn’t be good for Apple or Leopard, as the comparison would be based more on hearsay.

Instead, Apple has staved off those comparisons with its “top secret features” line. And yet, they may be nothing more than a glossy black user interface and a tabbed Finder. Hardly worth keeping secret.

Spring may have only just begun, but the way time is slipping away, there’s nothing Apple could add this late that could top Time Machine for being revolutionary (by Apple’s standards).

So, again, doing the math, it all adds up to…maybe no top secret features at all and nothing to get excited about.


  • I’ll be down right pissed if it was all just a marketing ploy

    Apple?  Marketing ploy?  How dare you!  smile

    Every 10 minutes a 3D Steve Jobs walks into your desktop while you’re working and says “You do great work, and I’ll be your best friend”

    Except that the 3D Jobs would more likely say, “I’m doing great work.”

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • i think it’s taking so long because apple wants to make bootcamp fully compatible with vista.
    BootCamp is (for me) the biggest feature in Leopard. 
    As you say, if you want a newer look in the good old OS X you still have ShapeShifter, but if you’re planning to switch and the main issue to consider is that either you still have some applications made for Windows only or, you’re insecure about yourself and OS X, you have the guarantee that you will still be able to boot Windows and so you wouldnt have wasted a thousand dollars (for a macbook) in a computer that’s completely worthless.

    nana had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 63
  • Ahhhhh clearly provocation generates the most response.  This must be why articles regarding Leopard are always written with FUD rather than the more noble task of seeking to inform readers.

    I agree that that Top Secret feature will be UI related.  Howard makes the faux pas in equating UI with merely a “skin” change.  UI can be defined as anything that facilitates the interaction of human with computer.  Thus the UI could be a skin change as well as architectural change as well.

    WWDC07 session lists tell us that Apple is focused on Core Animation as a tool for improving usability.  I believe the finder is going to be replaced with a new Core Animation enabled product that makes Vistas 3D view look like a toy. 

    The technologies that will enable this will be of course Core Animation but Resoution Independence will play a large role.  Tigers UI is beautiful but it bogs down at times.  Leopard will prevent this by having a dedicated thread to the GPU for UI tasks. OpenGL 2.1 is now at the core of Quartz and your UI will constantly feed the GPU.  Expect to see the type of responsiveness we have always craved for OS X.

    I believe Quicktime will be dubbed version 8. Apple is downplaying it a bit but they’ve done significant work. QTkit is 64-bit and now supports better encoding for h.264. It also supports multiple outputs which should come in handy for video applications.

    I don’t know if Time Machine is going to be based on ZFS or not but I’m totally stoked by its inclusion.  Pooled storage with 256-bit checkums means no corruption people.  It means easily adding a huge hard drives and getting improved performance via Dynamic Striping without having a bunch of drive icons littering your desktop/finder.  ZFS is something that “will” change your computing life.  It’s just not “teh sexy”

    Lets face it ..there are few whizzbang features that an OS can add that really improve productivity.  The heavy lifting is done by the “behind the scenes” API

    Did you know that:

    Core Data is 10x faster and now migrates data to new schemas
    Core Text is faster and is much easier to support than ATSUI
    Leopard has improved facilities for handling priority processing
    Interface Builder is totally knew and has new plugin architecture
    Scripting in Cocoa apps is much improved with a new bridge
    Calendar Store adds read/write systemwide iCal access
    Sync Services should actually work now

    Operating Systems are just a conduit for great applications IMO. They shouldn’t “be” the application.  If you can see the forrest through the trees you’ll see that Leopard is a “must buy” if you want to improve your computing experience.

    hmurchison had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 145
  • Kaiser: LOL smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • “i think it’s taking so long because apple wants to make bootcamp fully compatible with vista. “

    Check out the top story at macrumors (or the Apple site) - Vista now fully supported

    Hungryjoe had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 10
  • This must be why articles regarding Leopard are always written with FUD rather than the more noble task of seeking to inform readers.

    As opposed to articles regarding Vista?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • There are a great set of new APIs for developers.  Don’t underestimate these.  3rd party Leopard apps are going to kick.

    Ray Fix had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 21
  • Well when there’s a VistaMatters.com I guess I’ll be on there saying the same thing but for now AppleMatters is here to cover computing from within the context of Apple inc.  The facts are many of us don’t have much online time means that the information we “do” read must have a high signal to noise ratio.  I’m not denigrating this article but there’s a whole lot of chaff on the internet and little wheat.

    hmurchison had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 145
  • Leopard will ship on time, Steve said so . . .  ;  )  besides not much has slipped the last few years.

    The new “secret” features could simply be introduced in the form of a new program (like BootCamp was).  That would be the best of both worlds.  We get the new shiny toys to play with, and Apple keeps their promise of secret stuff.  We help Apple by being beta testers (not the angry mob with crashing computers - even if they do) and they don’t have to worry so much about it messing up the perception that Leopard is rock solid.  Besides, maybe the REALLY interesting stuff will show up as integration with iLife 07, or a new version of .Mac.

    They are up to some sneaky stuff I’m sure of that.  Don’t forget this is the same company that ALREADY had written OS X for intel chips years ahead of time!

    schininis had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 8
  • Well when there’s a VistaMatters.com I guess I’ll be on there saying the same thing

    So if I find an Applematters article with Vista or Microsfot FUD (which won’t be hard to do), you will immediately go there and protest as you have here?

    That said, I don’t see the FUD.  Chris is speculating that if there were big features to be revealed about Leopard, we probably would have heard about them already.  They did, after all, reveal Time Machine and Spaces, which are, for OS X, big new upcoming features.

    Either the announced features are enough for you or not.  Or one could speculate, as most have, that there are other insanely great features still waiting to be announced.  But is there any real evidence for anything that would be useful or innovative that we don’t already know about?

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 2220
  • Chris didn’t write FUD but I do read a lot of it from other journalist.

    As I compute on Tiger I simply realize that I’m generally pretty darn happy with the OS.  Reduce my beachballs, improve the UI consistency and functionality, move towards allowing me to input data once and reuse that data in many places and I’m a happy campers eager to pony up my $129.  Others may have different requirements and that’s fair.

    How much change can Apple implement without 3rd party developer input will be something that is exciting to see.

    hmurchison had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 145
  • I did consider the idea of a whole batch of secret beta testers; however, this still makes me nervous, releasing such an important piece of software that has had limited testing is asking for trouble.

    A “top secret feature” must be really important, and so have been thoroughly tested.

    Of course, I’m toally wrong too, as plenty of software has come out of Apple with no outside testing. Safari, Keynote, Pages, yada yada yada.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Chris I share your concern.  I have to think that somehow Apple is going to focus on the Finder and animate it in a flashy way.  The trick will be to add substance to the UI without seeming gimmicy.  Expose was a simple task that looked gimmicky at first but lordy I love the feature today.  Can lightening strike twice?

    hmurchison had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 145
  • hmurchison knows what he’s talking about.  Leopard will rock and will probably be on time.

    Anyone that thinks that Apple is running out of time, has not being paying attention.

    OSX for Intel was being writen right along OSX for PPC for 5 years and NOT ONE SINGLE article, EVER, had a SINGLE word on it.

    This CLEARLY shows that Apple, somehow, somewhere CAN (and that doesn’t mean that they are) but that they CAN, test an ENTIRE OS without any beta testers.

    If history is any indication, it could well be tomorrow when Apple launches an ENTIRE new way of computing and not ONE person on this planet would have know that this was in progress.

    Except of course, the magicians at 1 Infinite Loop.

    Here is to Leopard!

    Doriansmatter had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 2
  • I think some people don’t realize what BootCamp is. When you run BootCamp, it does the following:

    1) Creates a driver disk for all the Apple hardware
    2) PArtitions your hard disk with a Windows partition
    3) Reboots your computer on that partition so you can install Windows.

    I believe the original version also updated your firmware so you could run Windows. However, based on my experience six months ago, I don’t believe that is necessary anymore.

    Therefore, BootCamp is independent of OS X and largely irrelvant as it’s nothing more than a set of drivers.

    So, Vista support wasn’t making your Mac able to run Vista, but simply making Vista drivers for your hardware.

    So all the excitement over BootCamp is misguided by some effective RDF. It’s just a drivers disk.

    If anyone knows or believes otherwise, feel free to correct me.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Mar 28, 2007 Posts: 1209
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