Mac OS X Leopard: A perfect 10
Apple's new operating system and its massive new feature set challenge users and developers to explore new and better ways of workingFollow @infoworld
No one is unhappy with Mac OS X Version 10.4, known as Tiger. OS X is not an application platform (I bristle at using the term "operating system" for OS X; I explain why below) that needed repair, speeding up, or exterior renovation. Motivations for major upgrades of competing system software — roll-ups of an unmanageable number of fixes, because the calendar says it's time, or because users are perceived to have version fatigue — don't apply to OS X. Apple wields no whip to force upgrades because Tiger stands no risk of being neglected by Apple or third-party developers as long as Leopard lives. Despite the absence of a stick that drives users into upgrades of competing OSes, or perhaps because of it, Apple enjoys an extraordinary rate of voluntary OS X upgrades among desktop and notebook users. Why? People buy Macs because the platform as a whole is perfect, full stop. Leopard is a rung above perfection. It's taken as rote that the Mac blows away PC users' expectations. Leopard blows away Mac users' expectations, and that's saying a great deal.
[ Leopard was selected to receive an InfoWorld Technology of the Year award. See the slideshow of all the winners in the platforms category. ]
Apple's secret, which is no secret to Mac users, is that major OS X releases deliver tangible value far in excess of their asking price, which in Leopard's case is $129. OS X is, first and foremost, a platform for integrated, user-facing applications. And to a far greater extent than previous releases, OS X Leopard itself exploits the facilities that Apple's developers have used to create the vendor's commercial software. Apple hasn't reserved any of the Mac platform's goodies for itself, and users don't need to wait (or spend) for apps that expose the platform's richness in productive ways.
Click for larger view.
Freedom in the frameworks
Looking at it from a technical perspective, Leopard's step past perfection lies in its extensive use of the combination of the Mac platform's intrinsic integration and Leopard's delivery of hundreds of additions and enhancements to OS X's frameworks.
Apple supplies a consistent, familiar, and well-documented path for developers to do any given thing. In contrast, an entire industry has sprung up around providing developers with proprietary plugs for the gaps that Microsoft leaves in Windows, often intentionally as an aid to the third-party development community. The completeness of the Mac frameworks leaves no room for a marketplace for Mac developer library enhancements.