Remember that "Redmond, start your photocopiers" jibe back when Tiger was released? Are Vista and Leopard all the proof we need that the photocopiers have been running flat out both at Redmond and Cupertino?
Oliver Rist of PC Magazine wrote a piece called "Leopard is the New Vista, and It's Pissing Me Off" which looks at a number of similarities between the two operating systems. But before looking at the similarities Rist offers up his assessment of the new platform:
I'm not sure what ticks me off more about Leoptard (I can't take credit for that nickname—some Brit coined it): the fact that so many of the semi-important changes don't work, the fact that Apple turned a stable OS into a crash-happy glitz fest, or that the annoying, scruffy Live Free or Die Hard actor infecting my TV (and our Web site, by the way) is pretending that Leopard is better than Vista. It's not better than Vista. Leopard is Vista. And Tiger is better than both of them!
A month of using Leopard with the same software I had under Tiger and the OS has dumped six times. That's six cold reboots for Oliver. Apple isn't even honest enough to admit that Leopard is crashing: The OS just grays out my desktop and pops up a dialog box telling me I've got to reboot. Like the whole thing is my fault.
I'm not sure that I'd complain if my PC fell over six times a month, but then again if an upgrade had taken the platform from not crashing into crashing more than once a week, that's something that I'd probably notice, and which would probably annoy me too.
Onto the similarities.
Wait for a Service Pack—Perpetually
This is an interesting one:
Even our own reviewer, who loves Leopard, says not to upgrade until 10.5.1. And now that Apple has coughed that up, he'll probably say to wait for 10.5.2. Or .3. Now where have I heard that advice before? Oh yeah, every time I reviewed Vista.
What makes it worse is this convoluted argument that my Apple friends give me: They're more upset at Microsoft on account of it being in perpetual service pack limbo because Vista was supposed to be a ground-up redesign, whereas Leopard is really just a juicy point release. That makes zero sense to me. As far as I'm concerned, they both suck.
My guess is that operating systems have become so complex that serious bugs will be inevitable in the x.0 release. If you want any guarantees relating to compatibility or stability, wait and see what other
suckers users have to say.
The other issue that's facing Apple is that the Mac ecosystem is growing. One the population consisted of a bunch of elitists (some would say self-proclaimed elitists) who subscribed to the teachings of the Cult of Mac. Now that core of devoted followers is being diluted by ... ugh ... consumers. These people show little loyalty and just want things to work, and when they don't work, they complain.
Also, as the Mac ecosystem grows it has to support more and more hardware and software. The problems of scale (in the form of reduced compatibility and reliability) that have caused problems for Windows users for years are now causing problems for Mac users. The OS is a victim of its own success.
Needless Graphics Glitz
Poof, here's Leopard, and the first thing the Apple folks want to show me is window transparency. Now all of a sudden that's the coolest thing ever and an obvious example of cutting-edge OS evolution. I had to check to make sure my ears were working when I heard that one.
Does all this interface glitz that Microsoft and Apple have crammed into their respective OSes make the OS any better of easier to use? I have to be honest and say that I'm not all that convinced. Sure, it looks cool but there's much more to usability than how something looks.
The other issue is that while the interface is the bit that you see and interact with, any changes done to it can't really be considered to be improvements, because while some people will hail them the best thing in the history of best things, others will think that they suck and impact productivity. When I look at the list of features that were dropped from Vista/Longhorn, I would have happily exchanged Aero for, say, WinFS. The more we become focussed on the packaging, the more we lose sight of what's important.
Pointless User Interface "Fixes"
Who's responsible for Apple's redesigned dock? I could understand a programmer thinking a mirrored dock would look great on his résumé. But I can't imagine that a UI expert looked at it and said it was more functional than Tiger's. A stupid cornflower-blue fuzzball is no replacement for Tiger's clear, dark arrow that let me know what apps I had open. I could actually see the arrow. The blue fuzzy thing just blends in with the pointless mirrored reflections of the app icons, so now I've got to squint for the same information.
Again, it's style over function.
Leopard's networking sees the physical part of the network just fine, wired or wireless. And if there's an AFP share, that pops up like a puppy for a doggie treat. But the Web abounds in complaints—plaintive cries as to why Leopard seems to ignore Windows shares, and semi-effectual fixes. Or it sees Windows shares for a little while and then in a fit of pique decides to drop them again. It's like the French waiter of networking. Oh, but who cares, Oliver? After all, it's not as if networking were in any way related to business functionality. Or that interacting peaceably with Windows is in any way required. As long as we can talk to the iPod and Apple TV we're good, right?
It seems to me that neither Apple nor Microsoft has done a good job of revamping the network stacks - I find that both Vista and Leopard are picky when it comes to seeing other systems. For people who are trying to make these platforms work (as opposed to just playing with them) this is a real deal-breaker. Networking is so critical to both home and enterprise users that to get it wrong, and so badly wrong, is simply incredulous.
Bundled Apps as New Features That Suck
Sidebar is a decent example of a New Feature That Sucks, but SideShow is a great example.
For Leopard, the sad bundled app-as-feature is Time Machine. To hear Mac moonies tell it, this is the best thing to happen to backup since the letter b. In reality, however, it sucketh and it sucketh huge.
Yep, Sidebar sucks. SideShow sucks whole lemons. But I have to say that while Time Machine could be a lot better, it's not the suckiest bundled Leopard app by a long shot. That prize in my opinion has to go to iTunes.
I've come to the conclusion that what's holding back adoption of Vista is XP. XP was around for too long, became too entrenched and was too good in comparison to Vista. I'm detecting hints that the same might be true for Tiger. It was good and around for a lot longer than any of the previous Mac OS X incarnations, and that allowed it to become the norm. The longer that something is considered the norm the more resistance there is to change.