From Leper to Leopard: Why 2008 will be the biggest year for Apple since 1981.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
(This article was written entirely by me; special thanks to Leo Laporte and the rest of the TWIT gang for your ideas and motivation)

Most family and friends of mine would call me an Apple Fanboy, but I insist that I am only an Apple Fan. There is a distinct difference between a fanboy and a fan; a fanboy will praise the item no matter what the entity does, a fan can be critical of the entity when it is wrong. For example, I am a Dallas Cowboys Fanboy; no matter how much they suck, I will root for them in every game (OK, this year they are half decent, but in years past, I cheered for them even at their worst).

I consider myself an Apple Fan because I am able to be critical of Apple. I don't like that they have kept the iPhone closed (they will fix this next year) and how expensive their products are (they have a 33% profit rate, a number that makes most technology companies jealous). However, I am a huge fan because I think that they are the most forward thinking technology company (more on this later).

Now, on a slightly related topic, I do not consider myself a Windows Hater. I simply hate Windows. I don't consider myself a Windows Hater because I empathize with Microsoft: they have a huge problem to overcome! The problem is "legacy," which means that with nearly a billion computers in the world running Windows, Microsoft can't just come out with a fully new version (like Apple or Palm can). Because of this, they have not created a "new" Windows in the last 15 years; they have simply updated their old version. For example, there are still snippets of code in Vista that were written for Windows 95! This means that there is code running on most machines that is over 15 years old! This is absurd! Would you buy a new TV with technology from 15 years ago, or a 15 year old printer? Would you listen to music on a tape, or use Super-8 to film your home movies?

Like I said, I do empathize with Microsoft. There is no easy solution for this. Because of this legacy problem, I consider Microsoft a "backward thinking" company. Their legacy problems force them to cater to people running old software, old computers, and computers that they can't control. They are spending more time fixing problems then looking forward at new features. This is why the OS has not changed in 15 years. Windows 95 and Windows Vista are, deep down, the same product. Sure, they look different, they have a few new features (search, backup). But your use of the OS as a user is the exact same. You install programs the same, you open files the same, the desktop has not changed.

Now, this post is not here to bash Windows, but this point is important. See, I find that people are tired of using the same OS, looking at the same thing, doing things the same way, and having an operating system that reminds them of 1995.

OK, enough about Microsoft, lets drive 850 miles north to Apple. Apple, is by definition, a "forward thinking" company. They have a small market share, so they are forced to revolutionize to draw more customers (look at the iPod... these days, we take the iPod for granted, but when it came out, it blew all of the competition out of the water by being innovative and customer-centered). They are forced to make things better so that more people are interested in their product. If Apple had not changed their OS in 15 years (they did in 2001 with OS X), than they would be out of business right now.

And Leopard, Apple's latest operating system (released last week) is the perfect example of this. Most reviews of Leopard are downplaying the importance of Leopard. But they are wrong, because Leopard will be the spring board to bring new customers to OS X.

A specific example between the backward thinking of Vista and the forward thinking of Leopard:

How do you view files in Windows?

Not too bad. You can see what type of file it is (Word file, PowerPoint file, Audio File), and for the pictures, it gives you a thumbnail of the photo, so you can see what it is. But lets say you are looking for a specific file, how would you find it? The same way as you did in Windows 95: by name.

Now, here are the same files using OS 10.4 (the now "old" Apple OS):

Pretty much the same thing: the icons for the files are a simple generic icon (even the photos, which aren't saved with a thumbnail).

Here are the same files in Leopard:

It looks the same, but if you look close, the thumbnails of all of the files are actually previews of the files. It doesn't matter if the file is a Word Document, a PowerPoint document, a photo, a PDF... (almost) anything your computer can read, it will show you an actual preview of the file (including album art for the music). Apple has created a new technology called "Quick Look" that shows live previews of all files. No more looking at the name of a file to see what to open, you now can SEE inside of every file.

But it doesn't stop there. For those that use iTunes, you may have been using Cover Flow, which was released a few versions ago. In this view, you can see the album art of your songs, and the art flips by as you scan your music:

When I first saw it, it was one of those "oh, OK, whatever" reactions. But now I have it in all of my play lists. Not that it adds a whole lot of functionality, but it is cool to watch and play with it.

With Leopard, Apple has introduced Cover Flow into the finder. Mixed with Quick Look, it makes it amazingly fast to find your documents. Here are the same files as above in Cover Flow:

Lets say you are looking for a project in a folder. Now, instead of looking for the file name, you look for the content of the file! And this isn't just photos; it will show you previews of movies, text documents, presentations, spread sheets. If your computer can open it, it will show you a preview of it. And not only does it show you a preview of, for example, the first page of a presentation, but you can scroll through the pages right there IN THE FINDER! Play movies, scroll PDFs, etc.

But it STILL doesn't stop there.

The preview in Cover Flow not big enough? Hit the space bar, and said file fills the entire screen in a preview. Again, scroll through presentations, see all of the pages in a spread sheet, watch movies, all in full screen, all in real time, all without opening a single program!

(note that when checking music, it uses the album art, and you can hear the music playing)

This will change the way that you browse files, and you won't be able to go back! (for a live preview of this example, I reccomend that you watch the Guided Tour on Apple's website, Cover Flow starts at 3 minutes and 50 seconds)

Another in depth example. Leopard has an automated backup that will backup (by default every hour) onto an external hard drive. No fuss, no worries, no set-up, it just happens. Vista also has this feature (in fact, some say that Apple stole the idea from Microsoft as this was an announced feature of Vista long before Apple implemented it). So the two are the same, right? Wrong.

While the backup mechanism that runs in the background operates the same, Apple has taken it one step further. In Vista, it simply backs up your information. Puts it into folders, so that if you loose your data, you have to go search in nested folders for what you lost. In Leopard, you open a "program" (a subset of the OS) called "Time Machine." What happens is hard to describe. Lets say that you had some files in a folder, but the files are now gone. With the folder open, select Time Machine, and you get this:

The window that you are in is now stretching "back into time." Each window behind the current window represents a backup of that window. To find your missing files, you simply scroll back in time until your files appear. Or, you can click the arrow in the lower right to jump back to the last time the folder was changed. Select the missing document(s) and hit "restore." The files are now back where they should be.

So, lets compare restoring files in the two Operating Systems:
Vista: open your external HD, open a few sub-folders, looking for the file in whatever convoluted manor Microsoft decided to use. Get frustrated and decide to do a search. Finally find the file; drag over to the other folder and hope it was the right version.
Leopard: with the folder open, activate Time Machine, press back arrow, select files, press Restore. Four clicks, no searching, no worry, no time wasted.

Which would you choose? (again, for a live preview of this example, I reccomend that you watch the Guided Tour, Time Machine starts at 9 minutes 35 seconds)

I have only mentioned two out of the many many many updates in Leopard (they claim 300 updates over the last OS, watch the rest of the Guided Tour for more of the improvements). The above examples prove my point: people are tired of the same old OS, and want something new, refreshing, and different. They are tired of using the same old OS, they crave a new way of browsing and opening files. Couple that with the ease of use of the rest of the OS, and it is a home run! I see Windows users wasting no time in migrating to Leopard. In the last quarter (summer 2007), Apple announced that half of the customers that bought Macs via Apple Stores were new to Macs. I think that that number will rise.

Five and a half years ago I purchased my first Mac. When I told people that I had a Mac, they looked at me like I was a leper. Now, with so many switchers, and attitudes towards Apple different, I am proud to be a Leopard.



spartacus976 said...

I still stand by the same thing I have been saying for years... programs, programs, programs. There are just so many more programs for windows. Take Darkroom for example (a photography software) - not for mac. Take the fact that Ryan's Mac was printing pictures weird at Dad's last reunion. What about drivers for the DR150's? What about the driver for my new 8x10 printer?

If your answer is simply that I run windows every time I am on a job, then I might as well buy a PC.

What about drivers for all the mac hardware while I am using said PC emulator?

What about drivers for capturing my camera directly to the HD? Does Canon put out Mac drivers?

I can be convinced... but it will take some work.

What say you?

Katanna said...

First, as far as programs, I would agree that there are "more programs for Windows." But a much higher percentage of those programs are crap-ware! They bog down the system and don't do much. This is a point that you won't understand if you have never used a Mac, but Mac Developers write better software because they are devoted to an OS that they love. Yes, this sounds hokey, but it is true.

See Awaken or ControllerMate for a few examples. ANYTHING a Windows program can do can be found for the Mac (with the one over-used exception of games).

"Take the fact that Ryan's Mac was printing pictures weird at Dad's last reunion."
How many times have you used a PC that printed weird pictures?

"What about drivers for the DR150's? What about the driver for my new 8x10 printer?"
I don't know, ask the manufacturers. If they don't support OS X, it is their fault, not Apple's.

"If your answer is simply that I run windows every time I am on a job, then I might as well buy a PC."

Not really. I know that Leo Laporte's opinion is "A PC at work, a Mac at home." You will get much more enjoyment out of your computer at home using OS X than you will using Windows. Apple also makes amazingly great hardware, even if it is overpriced.

"What about drivers for all the mac hardware while I am using said PC emulator?"
There are a lot of options for running Windows on a Mac. Boot Camp (included with Leopard) is not an emulator, it is actually Windows running on Apple hardware. Apple provides all of the drivers needed. Other emulators (Parallels, VMWare) support mostly everything; you will have to ask them about what they support.

"What about drivers for capturing my camera directly to the HD? Does Canon put out Mac drivers?"
Why wouldn't it work? The photography industry is largely OS X based, so Canon would be stupid to not support Macs.

Keep the debate coming.


spartacus976 said...

"What about drivers for the DR150's? What about the driver for my new 8x10 printer?"
I don't know, ask the manufacturers. If they don't support OS X, it is their fault, not Apple's.

But that is the big point. Whose fault it is, is not the issue. The issue is, I must be able to do seamless business on a mac. Whether or not I LIKE the OS makes little difference if I cant do what I need to do to make money.

Matt said...

This is why EVEN MATT KELLING bought an HP. He needed it for work. It's one thing to buy a Humvee because you NEED something that's mine-proof, armor plated, and has 18" of ground clearance; it's an enturely other thing to buy a Lexus because it has better fuel economy, comfortable seats, built-in air conditioning, traction control, and is legal to drive on official road-ways.

If you NEED a computer, buy a PC and install SuSE 10.1 Linux on it. SuSE is supported by Novell now, so the technical issues aren't as problematic, and Linux can do ABSOLUTELY everything that a PC AND a Mac can do. Half the time, Linux doesn't even NEED drivers, you just plug it in and Linux figures it out.

BUT on the other hand, if you WANT a computer, get one that's not going to crash (Win), isn't a scab bogging down your computer with a plethora of patches (Vista), and isn't going to give you a headache every time you need a new piece of software (Linux). Get something that might take a little bit of time to get used to, but is going to be a lot less painful in the end.

There, I said it.