Today I came across two pieces about Leopard which I found really interesting; one by John Gruber of Macworld and the other by Hadley Stern of Apple Matters. I came away with the feeling that both were saying the same thing, but coming at it from different directions.
Gruber can't contain his satisfaction with Mac OS X:
"Users wanted something new, something that would be as big a leap from the then-current operating system as the original Mac was from the Apple II. When Apple transitioned from OS 9 to OS X, we finally got it.
The initial major releases of OS X were exciting because the early versions had such gaping holes and serious performance flaws. The only reason it was possible for Apple to improve OS X so much between 10.0 and 10.4 was that there was so much room for improvement.
I’m not arguing that there’s no room left. It’s just that OS X 10.4 is so fundamentally good that future upgrades are likely to be on the scale of small refinements.
Apple’s long-term strategy for desktop computing seems to be refining OS X, not replacing it."
Stern is far more critical:
"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. "
"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. "
See what I mean about coming at the conclusion from different angles. Gruber is happy with OS X and doesn't see the need to make any radical changes while Stern thinks that the lack of anything really new is a problem.
The reason I find this interesting is because it reminds me of the coverage that Vista was getting before it was released. On the one hand you had people who were satisfied because, while acknowledging that Vista wasn't all that revolutionary, it added new features where they were needed. On the other hand you had no shortage of people who believed that Vista just wasn't new and innovative enough. While I don't align myself with anybody that claims Vista or Leopard is going to be so bad that it turns people back to abacuses, it is interesting that the "not innovative enough" label has been applied to both.
I can't speak for Leopard because I've not seen much of it, but I do wonder whether the issue of innovation (or the lack of it) comes down the fact that so many new systems are finding their way into the hands of very basic users. Go back five or 10 years and the ratio or expert of power user to basic user much have been a lot higher than it is now. Maybe those who seek higher levels of innovation will need to look away from consumer operating systems?