Attention Turning to Leopard and Rocky Launch of Vista

Now that the frenzy of the iPhone and new iPods is in the past, many are turning their attention to the imminent arrival of Leopard, especially in light of the rocky launch of Vista, according to Information Week on Thursday.

IW reported that developers received version 9A559 on Friday, and it could be the first of several release candidates according to some observers. An Apple spokespserson confirmed that this is the latest build, but wouldnit confirm if itis a release candidate.

Itis coming down to the wire in time, and Apple only has a few weeks of testing before committing to the Golden Master for reproduction. "Thereis no certainty in software, but all signs are pointing to it shipping on time," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst for Technology Business Research.

Michael Silver with Gartner said, "I think another slip for them is not likely, but if it happened, it would not be as big a deal for them as when Microsoft slips."

Despite the new features of Leopard, Mr. Gottheil believes that Mac OS X reached a "a plateau in terms of accessibility and respectability as an alternative to the PC." The features [that are known] were described as not groundbreaking. He went on to say, "Itis sort of like (Windows) Vista to XP -- Leopard to Tiger. In both cases, XP and Tiger are already good enough, and now theyire getting better."

On the other hand, if Apple wants to take advantage of the difficult times Vista has had, now may be the time to do it. Apple typically focuses on one product launch at a time, and Apple marketing excels in this scenario.

In the end, just how the incremental improvements of Leopard, the final analysis of the significant improvements, Appleis superb marketing, the PC communityis perception that itis time to switch, and Microsoftis snafu with Vista all combine to influence Appleis market share is anybodyis guess right now.

"We wonit really know those things until thereis a larger footprint (of both products) in world," Mr. Gottheil concluded.