Apple Leopard Leap ?

Apple just announced and delivered its new Leopard Mac OS/X – ho hum ??? Well actually this is really important because part of the run up in Apple stock is based on the fact that Vista is really bad, Microsoft is very slow to make changes in Service Pack 1 – and even the changes will be spread over Feb to March 2008 SP1 and who knows when for the rest of the fixes. In the meantime Leopard, the new Mac OS/10 is getting rave reviews and setting expectations that it will move its domestic 4% market share up substantially(worldwide Apple is at 2%) during the big XMas shopping season. We examine this notion. Here are some of the Leopard reviews:

Tom Yager – InfoWorld
“As a counterpoint to the crushing disappointment that was Vista, which emerged with only a fraction of its promise intact, Apples OS X Leopard (10.5) is everything that Steve Jobs said it would become when Apple first placed that first unsteady cub in developers hands. Leopard is also a thick catalog of inventions and improvements that Steve flat neglected to mention — so thick that Apple had to resort to running the equivalent of a software project change log on its site for marketing purposes. You cant chew through that list. Ive had months to do it, and Ill hit high points. The ones I choose, not those highlighted by Apple. Ill be on Leopard constantly through the weekend and next week, so while I may be forced to speak to the familiar here and the Mac-curious there, Ill make sure that everyone gets what they need to make informed decisions.”

Fraser Speirs at Guardian UK National Newspaper
“My personal favourite feature in Leopard is the improvements to Spotlight, the file searching system (which Ill deal with later): now that its much faster, I can see it becoming a regular feature of my daily work, rather than a tool of last resort. Im also a huge fan of Stacks, which lets you view the contents of a folder rapidly from the Dock….

Thats the thing about Leopard: it brings many small enhancements, and while you may not be immediately struck by the importance of some of the features, this version of OS X adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Combine what Apple has already done with what third party developers will do in their Leopard applications, and this is going to be a very solid platform for the future.”

Gizmodos Review of the Mainstream Leopard Reviewers

“Three reviews are in from USA Today, WSJ and NYT and theyre all positive (though some more positive than others). Thats Mossbergs video, above, but the rest of the reviews are summarized below.”

Gizmodos own review of Leopard – and this is from a year ago….
” A few days ago, we reported on some rumored OS X Leopard features. Those turned out to be fake as Uncle Toms toupee. But, the real features unveiled at todays WWDC Keynote turned out to be almost as yummy. If youve missed the presentation, weve gathered everything we could about the new OS—including videos and images—and we vomited it up into this post. Jump to read more.”

Paul Thrurott from Windows Supersite – the loyal oppositions view point
“More important, perhaps, is that the new OS X features that Jobs and company announced this week arent, by and large, all that impressive. Two of the new features–Time Machine and Spaces–are valuable additions to OS X and worth discussing, though both, interestingly, have been done before in other OSes. The other Leopard features Apple announced, alas, are almost all a complete waste of time. Theyre the types of things one might expect of a minor, interim update, or from free Web downloads.”
What Paul neglects to mention are 1)Leopard is stable and very easy to install unlike Vista which desperately needs an update/service pack; 2)Leopard is smaller in memory footprint and faster in operations in stark contrast to Vista which at least doubled memory requirement and still is sluggish in a whole range of basic operations like hibernate, file opening, and network connections (desperately awaiting Vista SP1 and whenever); 3)there are over 300 upgrades to Leopard – every reviewer is staggered by the breadth of features new and improved.

Bottom Line on X

– I believe that like the FireFox browser Apple will start to chip away at Microsofts dominant desktop OS market share. But it wont move much beyond a 1 or 2% gain in the first year or two. Two critical factors are instructive. First, Vista is eL Bloato and Linux is slim, trim, and much faster and even easier to install and find/download all sorts of free software for with Ubuntu and Xandros being two of the top distributions. Yet there is hardly been an uptake on Linux desktops despite a price differential of $0-30 versus Vistas $80-200 when preloaded with your new PC( let alone retail prices).

Perhaps FireFox is the best example – superior browser features, faster download and install, and faster and more secure browser despite the FUD on number of incidents cited by Microsoft (there is one incident report for every OS that Firefox runs on (7-10 depending on what you count as an OS) – Windows-only IE therefore gets slightly fewer “security incidents” but if you look at the core problems and speed of update Firefox is better.) Yet it has taken nearly 3 years for Firefox to go from 2% to 14% market share. Yet given Web 2.0 and pervasive use of Net, a browser is vital to users and the switch is almost painless. Inertia among users counts bigtime – Microsoft can get away as “current monopoly” with being slightly less than just good enough and still retain substantial market share in the browser market place.

Now consider the move to a new OS – much more time consuming both for the initial conversions and the ongoing updates of hardware, peripherals, and software. Plus there is the conversion learning curve. True a word processor is a word processor – and most mail programs work remarkably the same – but just look at how long it took Firefox, a clearly better browser than IE, to wrest away 12% market share points. Now imagine that Apple has to do this for dozens of apps. Inertia wins.

Apples real opportunity will be with the upcoming first-time buyers, college and first job users. In the college group, they should do well – iTunes and iPod users will be inclined to give Apple a good look see. But for first-job users – BZZZZZT, they will buy the PCs used at work. And those PCs are Windows in 95%++ proportions. Hence I will be really surprised if Mac wrests more than 2% market share gain between now and this time next year (going from 8.3 to 10.3% 0f the US market). So dont expect a Leopard leap to help Apple market share to justify the big 47PE ratio. Sales of 2 million new Macs adds only $2B to Apples $24B in revenues. In sum, this Apple is good looking but it will take time to really ripen.

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