Daniel Eran Dilger
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Ten Myths of Leopard: 2 It’s Only a Service Pack!

Ten Myths of Leopard: 2 It's Only a Service Pack!
Daniel Eran Dilger
Myth 2 in the Ten Myths of Leopard.

Ten Myths of Leopard: 1 Graphics Must Be Slow!
Ten Myths of Leopard: 2 It’s Only a Service Pack!

Ten Myths of Apple iPhone
Ten Myths of the Apple TV

Myth 2: Leopard is only a minor upgrade similar to a Windows XP/Vista Service Pack. This is a popular meme, but entirely disregards what Apple has delivered in every new version of Mac OS X in order to create a simpleton catchphrase that sounds informed when it’s merely ignorant. Windows XP service packs (there have been two) were a big deal to XP users, but only because the product was in a security crisis and desperately needed driver updates.

XP Service Pack 1 added support for USB and enabled users to select an alternative email and web browser program apart from those Microsoft supplied. That “feature” was really a concession to avoid further antitrust prosecution. Microsoft also replaced Sun’s Java with “J++,” because Sun had sued Microsoft for continuing to call its product Java after intentionally making it incompatible with Sun’s implementation of Java. SP1 also fixed a variety of bugs. That’s a service pack.

XP Service Pack 2 added the Windows Security Center, which featured an improved firewall, a more visible software update system, and a system to remind users to buy a third party anti-virus package. It also added a wizard for setting up WiFi networks, added Bluetooth support, and address some security problems. That’s a service pack.

Every major version of Mac OS X has added a handful of entirely new applications and major new features, in addition to making improvements to things like device support and security. These major marketing features are included to sell the OS as a “reference release,” but major versions also pack in a lot of new developer plumbing for building third party applications. That’s a major release, on the same level as Windows 2000 (Windows NT 5.0) and Windows Vista (Windows NT 6.0).

Regular minor releases of Mac OS X have added similar fixes for device support and new hardware, security improvements, and minor new features and applications. That’s a service pack.

Windows XP itself was a minor update, similar to Mac OS X 10.1. That means Microsoft has shipped 2 major operating systems since 2000, while Apple has shipped five (not counting the porting of Mac OS X to Intel). In between, Microsoft has shipped three minor updates (two-thrids of which were free) while Apple has shipped over thirty five free updates.


Windows 2000 (5.0)
Windows XP (5.1)
Windows XP SP1
Windows XP SP2
Windows Vista (6.0)

Mac OS X 10.0 (4)
Mac OS X 10.1 (5)
7 more free minor updates
Mac OS X 10.2 (6)
8 free minor updates
Mac OS X 10.3 (7)
9 free minor updates
Mac OS X 10.4 (8)
10 free minor updates
Mac OS X 10.5 (9)

Leopard, Vista and the iPhone OS X Architecture.

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  • rhall112003

    I find it interesting how guys like Paul Thurrott downplay MS’s failures with tidbits like “Both Leopard and Vista were horribly late…”, “…Apple fanatics will blissfully skip over any accolades I may have to offer and focus instead on the pedantic meanings of terms like evolutionary and minor…” and my personal favorite, “…shipping such an inconsequential upgrade in the wake of Hurricane Vista was a mistake”.

    While he made some valid points, he’s buried himself under the fact that Apple consistently manages to produce more product (and faster) with fewer resources.

  • stormj

    Well, for the end user, it might look like a service pack, but that just shows how little the person making that claim understands computers.

    Anyone who has read the 17 page Ars Technica review and its excellent detail of all of the under the hood features and still tries to act like this is a service pack is on crack.

  • Saladin

    Interesting article, however I was a little disappointed with an omission regarding the service packs released by MS.

    Windows 2000 did have four service packs. If one of the points made by the article is to compare release density/speed of the two companies, I think it would be ‘fairer’ to show the complete picture, and also include them as well.

    I know the article is comparing OSX to WinXP, but even so….

    That said, don’t get me wrong: I agree wholeheartedly with the article view. (and this comment is being posted from my macbookpro running 10.5. )

  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    We also get to read about how Leopard is a 1.0 effort and that it really won’t be very good until after a few hurried updates. 10.0 was a 1.0 effort 6 years ago. Windows 2000 and Vista were 1.0 efforts . Leopard is nothing like that. It’s polished and stable and breaks virtually no applications while having some significantly improved plumbing. Leopard also performs quite well on 5 or 6 year old hardware – even the “premium” version with all the eye candy turned on. Is Vista performing smoothly on hardware that’s even 2 or three years old?

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX


    “Hurricane Vista”?? *chuckle*

    Was Thurrott trying to imply that Vista is blowing away everything in its path, or that it’s like hurricane Katrina where its arrival is showcasing a horrible display of incompetence and mismanagement?

    Either way, when is a hurricane ever welcomed?

  • autobrain

    I registered here just so I could comment on this article. Additionally, I am a new Leopard user myself, having just installed it on Monday. I love the new OS, and I truly think Apple has done some amazing work with this latest version. Like you said, it is not a service pack, it’s a new OS, and a good one at that. I think most of the points here are good; however, you are overstating your case more than just a little bit. There is no reason to simply ignore the fact that Windows 2000 had four service packs as well. As service packs go, they were not minor either, each affording similar advances as either Windows XP service pack. If you had included this information, your argument would remain just as sound, and not have the appearance of apologism.


    Yes, 10.5 is awesome, but it is not all roses. Many, if not all 3rd party Quicktime codecs suffer major performance problems. Perian is perhaps the most problematic, and this needs to be addressed soon.

    I’m not trying to start an argument, just trying to state some facts to go along with the Apple love here.


  • rhall112003

    Of course Thurrott’s intent was to imply that “Hurricane Vista” is a tour de force leaving the competition in shambles… Apple’s benchmark of two million units sold over the weekend makes this “Hurricane” seem a bit more like a tropical depression.

    johnnyapple is right though – most of the windoze machines running in our office can barely maintain solid performance on XP Pro, to say nothing about keeping up with Aero (and these Dell boxes are all under a year in age).

  • Nicky G

    Hurricane all right — as in, IT BLOWS. heh.

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  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple


    “10.5 is awesome, but it is not all roses” That’s not starting an argument. An informed critique is not the same as telling someone they’re dumb or wrong without an explanation. I don’t personally use/need Perian. Are any other plugins broken? Do you think the fix is up to Perian or Apple?

  • autobrain

    @ johnnyapple

    It’s definitely the Perian people’s problem to deal with. I know Apple have no responsibility to make every conceivable bit of code function swimmingly on their new OS. I do, however, wish Perian “just worked” and the fact that it doesn’t is frustrating for me. Flip4Mac seems to suffer the same performance issues as Perian, although I haven’t tested it as much. But the fact that they both have identically the same issue (stuttering video and lagging audio playback) would suggest to me that the problem lies in some change in the way Quicktime “talks” to 3rd party components.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    Windows 2000 was a significant update to Win NT 4, but it was not a consumer OS. I counted it to be charitable because XP was a minor update over 2000 intended to add the consumer fluff of Microsoft’s DOS-based Windows products on top of NT.

    In 2000, PC consumers were all stuck with DOS + Windows 98/98SE/ME until the arrival of XP, just as Mac users were stuck with System 7/Mac OS 8/9 while waiting for Mac OS X.

    Counting Windows 2000 Service Packs might be a fun numerology experiment for Windows Enthusiasts interested in covering up Microsoft’s gross incompetence, but it has little relevancy to the discussion of XP and Mac OS X, both of which were targeted to a consumer audience. What consumers benefitted from updates to Windows 2000 after the release of XP?

    I don’t write to compare meaningless numbers for advocacy experiments (or else I’d have added notes on how Apple delivered a series of updates to Mac OS 8 & 9). I write to make a clear point. In this case: Microsoft failed to deliver its plans repeatedly, and some of its more giddy customers struggle to justify that incompetence by trying to marginalize Apple’s actual ability to ship, which for Windows Enthusiasts is an embarrassment.

    Windows Server 2003 was not a consumer product either. Microsoft scrapped its initial XP+ plans to deliver Longhorn in 2003, then started over using Windows Server 2003 as the foundation for a new Longhorn, due in 2004, 2005, 2006, and only delivered for show at the end of that year (it wasn’t ready to sell to consumers until early 2007, and largely rejected by the market afterward). That is significant for at least two reasons:

    1) clearly if Microsoft could have sold Windows Server 2003 as a consumer OS, it would have done so rather than looking foolish for four years while struggling to do just that.

    2) many major business users continue to use Windows 2000 because it is good enough, forcing Microsoft to issue service pack updates for its previous releases.

    That leaves Microsoft’s revenue coming from a) a minority of vocal customers who buy the company’s products because they like its logo and b) the vast majority of it customers, who have no choice but to pay the Microsoft tax when they buy a new PC.

    That’s not good news for Microsoft, because the vast majority of people don’t want to pay the Microsoft tax and a lot more of the minority of people who care actually like Apple’s logo (and products) better.

    Microsoft makes a minor tax profit on high volume PC sales but can’t sell its flagship Vista product at retail; Apple can’t sell to high volume, low profit PC sales (because there is no open market), but it can sell its products at retail, and people go out of their way to buy them.

    That’s why many Windows Enthusiasts are so upset about Apple’s progress they are willing to misrepresent reality. For them, the news is just going to get worse.

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