Ten Myths of Leopard: 8 No Hidden New Features!
November 7th, 2007
Daniel Eran Dilger
Myth 8 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 Leopard: 3 Nothing New for Developers!
Ten Myths of Leopard: 4 Java 6 Abandonment!
Ten Myths of Leopard: 5 “Back To My Mac” Security Panic!
Ten Myths of Leopard: 6 Time Machine Eats Hard Drives!
Ten Myths of Leopard: 7 Premature Death for Existing Macs!
Ten Myths of Leopard: 8 No Hidden New Features!
Ten Myths of Apple iPhone
Ten Myths of the Apple TV
Myth 8: Leopard Offers No New Hidden Features! Paul Thurrott has been banging his fist for over a year, demanding to see the additional new features Steve Jobs indicated would be in Leopard but which Jobs said Apple was keeping under wraps to prevent competitors from copying them.
Jobs’ comment was made after showing off the first ten new features in Leopard at WWDC 2006. That limited preview actually set the bar quite low for introducing new features, so Thurrott’s rhetoric comes across as overreaching and desperate, but the accusation remains.
The fact that Apple subsequently made dramatic changes to the Leopard desktop, Dock, and Finder–among a variety of other features detailed below–means that it wouldn’t occur to a reasonable person that a fact finding witch hunt was required to “unearth the truth” on the supposedly missing new features in Leopard. Thurrott has other reasons to dig Leopard apart however: he’s hoping to stick the reputation of Microsoft’s Vista tar pit upon Apple.
Why Apple Gets Compared To Microsoft.
One might expect that Apple would face problems similar to Microsoft in delivering a major upgrade to something as complex as a desktop operating system. Apple only has about 18,000 employees compared to Microsoft’s 80,000, and “only” makes 3% of the entire world’s computers.
However, Apple is also bringing in more than a third of Microsoft’s revenues, is making more than a quarter of Microsoft’s profits, and is selling new Macs–which direct eat up sales of Windows PCs–four times faster than the rest of the industry.
Apple has also decimated Microsoft’s PlaysForSure cartel with better hardware, better software, and a better buying experience for music; embarrassed Microsoft’s Windows Mobile with the iPhone; and shipped five releases of Mac OS X while Microsoft repeatedly started over on Longhorn plans. Maybe it’s not safe to assume that Apple will follow Microsoft’s same problems after all.
The best sucker punch Windows Enthusiasts can deliver against Apple is that its Apple TV product has only outsold the leading Tivo; it has not also outsold Apple’s own iPhone or burned down sales records at the same pace as the iPod. However, Microsoft’s own Windows Media Center products have similarly tanked, with HP pulling out of its partnership with Microsoft last year. Microsoft’s miserable failures in media stretch from WebTV to Ultimate TV to its latest desperate hope for Media Center tied to the Xbox 360, which has lost Microsoft billions of dollars over the last year.
Microsoft has heaped so much humiliation on its own Windows Enthusiasts that those wags are now in a desperate, frenzied panic to find some kind of dirt on Apple.
Why Vista Enthusiasts Need To Find Leopard Problems.
Thurrott’s schadenfreudewunsch upon Leopard is specifically related to his being upset that Vista failed to deliver many of the features described as part of the “pillars of Longhorn,” including its database WinFS file system; the Monad “power shell” as it was originally outlined; Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (formerly Palladium, the iron fisted DRM fantasy of Bill Gates); RSA SecureID support; the promise that everything in Longhorn would use managed code and be delivered in C# and .Net; PC to PC syncing; Universal EFI support; and other marketing details that are now only historical curiosities now that Microsoft has repositioned the goalpost on top of its current position with Windows Vista.
In addition to missing major marketing features, Vista also failed to deliver basic promises such as requiring fewer reboots with software installation and settings changes, or offering much faster rebooting times. In reality, Vista still requires lots of reboots, and often takes significantly longer to boot up than Windows XP. It even frequently takes longer to shut down. It also does not improve the laptop wake-delay problem that has always plagued users of PC laptops.
Instead, Microsoft invented SideShow, an absurd “solution” to long boot and slow wake times that effectively builds a mobile PDA into the back of some laptops designed to run Windows Vista. The biggest problem is that the data displayed isn’t a live view of your email and other data; it only shows a tiny, static display of your old system the last time you shut it down. To update the display, you can set your system to wake up in the background every hour. And no, I am not making this stuff up.
What a huge waste of hardware and an unnecessary complication to accomplish so little! SideShow is the emperor’s new pajamas: a spectacularly bad way to work around flaws in Windows, making it more clumsy that it was already. While Windows Enthusiasts were fawningly amazed and delighted to read about it, SideShow is simply embarrassing to anyone who has a job that does not revolve around recommending the purchase of Windows.
Missing from Leopard.
While Vista lost features like a wet dog shaking, Mac OS X delivered more than it promised. There are a few features Apple changed or dropped from developer builds in the golden master release of Leopard, however.
One missing feature some were hoping to use is AirPort disks as a target for Time Machine. AirPort uses WebDAV for file sharing–just like the .Mac iDisk–rather than AFP as a shared Mac would. It appears the problem with using AirPort with Time Machine is either related to support for WebDAV volumes, or more simply related to wireless backup. It’s not yet clear whether Apple is still working on adding the feature, or if it determined that the initial backup of 50 GB or more over WiFi wouldn’t meet user expectations.
Leopard also uses the new Front Row 2.0 which debuted earlier on the Apple TV. The initial version worked as a thin front end to iTunes and other apps, but the new Front Row is a self contained media player; that’s why Apple TV doesn’t need a copy of iTunes running in the background. One side effect of this is that Leopard’s Front Row now lacks the AirTunes feature of iTunes, so it can’t wirelessly transmit audio to an outside set of speakers. The upside is that once this gets added to Front Row 2, it will also work on the Apple TV, perhaps enabling my idea for “Apple Surround.” This is a minor inconvenience, as uses can still use iTunes to stream music to the AirPort Express.
Another reported missing feature is the ability to dial your Bluetooth mobile phone from Address Book. Conspiracy theorists blame the iPhone, but Apple didn’t kill any other support for Bluetooth phones, making such an idea laughable. More realistically, Apple probably determined that most users couldn’t figure out why they might want to pair their phone and then link it to Address Book so that its Bluetooth transmitter was constantly running just to be able to dial from their computer.
Shill rag APC Magazine tried to inflate the loss of “dialing your mobile phone from your computer” as a major problem for Leopard users in comical fit of unintentional humor.
However, Vista also suffers from minor dropped features. It no longer supports IP over Firewire, and similarly discontinued ActiveSync, NetMeeting, Windows Messenger, and Outlook Express for new replacements that don’t supply all of the same features or work with all existing devices or accounts that earlier versions did. The price of omelets is broken eggs. At the same time, Leopard didn’t drop any major features outlined in WWDC demonstrations. Instead, a variety of new features appeared that were never even hinted at previously.
New In Leopard.
Among them is system-wide support for features once offered only in Apple’s own applications, as noted in Myth 3. Users familiar with iLife and iWork apps will now be able to find the same features in third party apps, because Apple has delivered the tools behind those apps for developers to use. Another set of surprises that was really no surprise: Core Text and FSEvents, used internally by Apple in Tiger, are now cleared for third parties to use as public interfaces in Leopard.
Other new features that had no earlier mention made include IMAP IDLE support in Mail, the new effects presented in the Address Book’s Photo Taker Panel, or the enabling of full screen QuickTime playback without having to pay for the $30 QuickTime Pro upgrade.
Apple never stated that Core Graphics would provide support for Quartz GL, and users wouldn’t have cared much anyway. What they will care about is the fact that Leopard does everything noticeably faster, even while also adding new user interface features like Spaces.
Spotlight is also faster, and not just at searching but also at general purpose tasks such as looking up definitions, solving equations, and launching applications. Similar thoughtful refinements are found throughout Leopard.
Apple also didn’t previously advertise Leopard’s new security features, including the use of metadata tags to flag downloads so they are forced to report themselves as possibly suspicious when you open them. This prevents scripts from launching and installing malware in the background without the user’s knowledge and permission, one of the biggest problems for Windows users.
Security Cost Vs Vulnerability Value
New In the Finder.
The Finder, which many users spend a lot of their time using, now offers much greater performance by spinning off tasks such as connecting to a server into an independent process. That’s worth a whole lot more than a marketing point item.
The new Finder also incorporates user configured icon grid spacing in its windows (like the old Mac OS) and sets a preference to not warn you when you change a file’s extension.
Another new feature in the Finder is the Path Bar, which allows you to not only see where you are, but with a right click, you can even open or get info on any breadcrumb in your current path.
Other New Stuff.
If you want a new more flashy app, Photo Booth now records video and takes four-up multi-shots, and will even spit out an animated avatar icon for use in iChat (or anywhere else you want an animated GIF).
If you want a more practical and utilitarian app, there’s Disk Utility, which can now delete and resize partitions without destroying the rest of the volumes on the same disk.
There was also no mention of screen sharing, Bonjour discovered file sharing, and plenty of other ideas released shortly before Leopard’s release. Recounting what’s new in Leopard is a full time job, just like apologizing for the failures of Vista.
Two Windows Enthusiasts Engage In Rabid Fight Over Zoon Award.
Trying to suggest that there is nothing more in Leopard than the ten new features Jobs demoed a year ago is beyond disingenuous; it’s a fraudulent smear. It is particularly absurd given that Thurrott recently devoted an entire column to raking fellow flack Adrian Kingsley-Hughes over the coals for insinuating that Vista dropped features because Microsoft was rushing it to market.
Righteous indignation knows no bounds among the converted; Thurrott adopted the Windows religion after being an Amiga supporter, so his advocacy pulpit occasionally radiates the heat of flamboyant bursts that at one day and age were confined to Usenet.
Rather than pointing out what a boob Kingsley-Hughes was for making up a simpleton series of uninformed bullet points attacking Leopard, Thurrott instead unmercifully ridiculed Kingsley-Hughes for writing what Thurrott called “the most ignorant thing I’ve read in a long time,” all only for suggesting that Vista was rushed.
The Evil of Two Lessors.
Kingsley-Hughes in turn called Thurrott’s comment “a pretty ridiculous statement,” and pulled out a second, even more delicious quote from Thurrott: “That there have been lots of complaints about Vista, of course, is also obvious. But then most of the people complaining make a living complaining, so it’s kind of hard to draw any conclusions about that, given that Vista is the most compatible and successful release in the history of Windows.”
Kingsley-Hughes added, “I’m not sure what circles Thurrott revolves in, but in the circles in which I work, most of the people I’ve come across who are complaining about Vista are people trying to get some work done using it and not being able to because something gets in their way.” While Kingsley-Hughes occasionally displays candor about Vista and reserves his rage for attacking all things Apple, Thurrott is both offensive and defensive.
When Thurrott says ‘it’s kind of hard to draw any conclusions about ‘what people who make a living complaining say,’ is he only being unintentionally funny? Oh that’s the best.
Thurrott and Kingsley-Hughes are like two rats setting a trap for themselves and then fighting over the cheese. Hold on Paul Thurrott and Adrian Kingsley-Hughes! I’ll give you both a Zoon for your clownish hijinks.
Microsoft Isn’t the Only Copycat.
When Apple announced it had secret features it wasn’t showing off until Leopard’s release, I bet it didn’t just have Microsoft in mind. Thurrott naturally assumed that Jobs was referring to Microsoft because it had copied the Mac desktop in the 80s, then copied features from NeXT and OS/2 in the 90s, then lifted the marketing of Windows XP from Mac OS X in 2000, then lifted the look of Vista and many of its applications (including Windows Calendar) from Tiger and earlier versions of Mac OS X.
However, by late 2006 Microsoft’s Vista wasn’t likely to change course and start packing on new features after dropping so many throughout its extended beta period. I think Apple also had other interface cloners in mind.
Because Apple invests so much effort to invent original ideas, it works to hold them under wraps until it’s ready to sell actual products. Look at how many fake iPods have been churned out by Chinese cloners, or even how its design was aped by LG for the US version of its Chocolate phone and by Microsoft’s Zune. Apple sets the model for others to follow. To stay a step ahead, it can’t reveal its blueprints until it’s finished building its own product.
With Leopard, Apple didn’t want users creating themes for XP and other systems that wore out the new look of Leopard’s desktop and Dock before Apple could even deliver them. That secretive strategy worked, because Leopard’s unique marketing delivers a lot of fresh ideas that look modern and pioneering, and drive its more conservative critics nuts, as any good performance should.
Blinded By Vapor.
The opposite of delivering successful products that establish models for other to copy is to simply pretend to match what others have introduced. Microsoft has long issued vaporware to compete against real products, hoping to titillate critics with the idea that Microsoft, like China, could clone anything given enough time.
This worked in 1985, when wags blinded by vapor professed faith that Microsoft would one day deliver its own Macintosh-like desktop (it took ten years). Or in 1991, when wags blinded by vapor pledged their allegiance to Microsoft’s Cairo, which promised to deliver object-oriented frameworks comparable to NeXT and Taligent, but instead failed more spectacularly than even Taligent after running real competitors out of business. Taligent delivered a technology portfolio to Sun for use in Java, while Cairo subsequently dissipated into the fog of a “vision.”
Or in 1996, when wags blinded by vapor thought Microsoft’s new plans for ActiveMovie sounded a lot like Apple’s QuickTime. They did share similarities, apart from the fact that QuickTime was real and had worked for years, while ActiveMovie was a smokescreen that never delivered upon its promises and was quickly forgotten as new clouds of vapor rolled in.
Or in 2001, when wags blinded by vapor thought that XP sounded a lot like Mac OS X, or in 2003 when wags blinded by vapor thought that Longhorn would match the advances of Mac OS X, or today, as wags blinded by vapor insist that Leopard offers nothing new while Vista delivers at least bits of what Microsoft promised back in 2001.
The problem for wags blinded by vapor is that they’ve consistently ignored the genuine and real to chase after nebulous promises of a company that has never delivered strong products, never delivered innovation commensurate with its market position, and never delivered leadership in fair prices, security, or stability.
So why are they blinded? Microsoft offers the quality of a Chinese knockoff without the lower price tag. Perhaps Apple’s booming sales have something to do with the increasing sophistication of consumers in the age of the Internet, no thanks to the blind wags.
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