Leopard Preview Gives Clue to Top Secret New Feature

by Chris Howard Aug 09, 2006

Apple showed us some of the new features in Leopard but also provided clues to what the “Top Secret” feature might be.

It’s interesting what a different perspective you get reading an Apple keynote compared to watching one. You pick up things others haven’t noted and some things are much more impressive, while others make you wonder what the fuss is about.

After perusing the internet about the WWDC06 keynote, I started this piece and called it “No Big Bang in Leopard Yet.” But after watching the keynote, I’d have to say there are some significant and impressive things showing up already. Including a big clue to an upcoming feature.

If the good stuff is yet to come—“Top Secret” as Steve called it—then prepare to be blown away when all of Leopard is revealed. Especially you, Vista.

Here’s a few of the things that impressed me:

Voice Over
Of all the things Apple showed us, this one was the most amazing. I confess, after Steve demonstrated it and the audience whooped and hollered, I was about to clap too.

An excellent mix of extraordinary eye candy, and potentially really useful features. To be able to show photos, videos and Keynotes through iChat, should be a big winner with businesses all over the world.

And the Background feature? Total eye candy, but wow! For people who like eye candy, the Background feature will sell a few Macs. Imagine seeing that demoed in your local Apple store with a video of say a beach scene for the background…
Customer: “Who’s the guy at the beach?”
Salesperson: “That’s Fred. But he’s not at the beach, he’s over there.”
Fred waves from across the room. Customer’s jaw gets carpet burn.

System wide To Dos
A great idea. It’s a whole new way of managing your work and files. I expect there are a few more secrets up Steve’s sleeve with this one.

iCal goes multi-user
Finally Apple is lifting calendaring up a notch. With the new multi-user iCal and it’s group calendaring, combined with iWork 07 and enhanced Mail, many small business will find no need at all for Microsoft Office.

Add to this list improvments, Parental Controls enhancments, Spotlight enhancements, and Dashcode and WebClip, there is a lot to look forward to in Leopard.

But not everything Steve and Scott Forstall (VP of Platform Experience) showed got me excited. Here’s a couple:

Time Machine
One of the keys to a successful backup is not storing the backup in the same room or building as the original system. With the exponential growth of backed up data, Time Machine looks like it will require a hefty external hard drive, and with files constantly changing, it will always need to be connected. So Time Machine only becomes useful for rollbacks as Scott demonstrated.

Time Machine is going to be extremely useful for one-off file or folder restores, but as a replacement for a proper backup regime? You’re going to get burnt if you rely on Time Machine only. Defintely keep using SuperDuper (or whatever your backup preference) for removable media backups.

This one is for the geeks. It is good implementation but hardly too inspiring. VirtueDesktops can do all this in one form or another except for the drag and drop of apps between desktops. It’s nice that it’s included in Leopard but hardly revolutionary or as Steve described it “a big one”.

The only way the average user will use Spaces is if it gets some intelligence built-in. For instance, apps of the same type launch on a specified desktop. Or if it remember which desktop you last had the apps on. Or if you can designate which space an app launches in.

I’m impressed.

Leopard is probably on par at this stage with Tiger as far as bang-for-buck, maybe a little ahead. And that will only get better. This OS X will be definitely be worth the upgrade price.

One more thing… Core Animation
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention what I think the big secret of Leopard is? I believe it’s to do with Core Animation. By the time you read this, I probably won’t be the only one suggesting it, but I think this really is the real big one.

Steve called some other features “the big one”, but he was probably just trying to keeping a lid on the truth. Core Animation is going to totally change the interface, and Time Machine was a sampler. For a long time people have been hoping to see a “3D” interface on computers and some concepts do exist - even Vista has something. But when you see Time Machine in action you can see OS X kicking those other guys back into the second dimension. (Note: I say “3D” because it is only a simulation of a 3D look. Until we get 3D monitors, it’s really just fancy 2D.)

Imagine, for instance, a file viewer that would let you flick through your files like you would flick through a book. You saw a hint of that already in Time Machine. And with Core Animation, even if Apple don’t do it, any third party developer could. Or Imagine flicking through your photos in iPhoto; your albums in iTunes; your DVD collection in Delicious Monster.

And that’s just one way of implementing Core Animation. Imagine what Apple will do with it when it meets Finder.

As Apple are giving away Leopard now so developers can starting building apps for it, that strongly indicates no more significant under-the-hood changes are slated. But it also mean Apple has a lot more time for overhauling of the interface. Finder had no apparent changes; it didn’t get a mention at all. For example, don’t you think if Apple was going to implement a tabbed Finder, Steve would have showed it?

But he didn’t because Core Animation will meet Finder. That will be the revolution in Leopard. My money says a 3D Finder and other 3D interfaces are what Apple is trying to keep “Top Secret”.


  • Precisely. When you compare apple and their os with all it’s bundled products you MUST NOT FORGET Microsoft has 95% of the market and can’t do that stuff.

    Karl Oscar Weber had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 18
  • Karl, you seem to be confusing applications and OS extensions.

    Expression is an application which, among other things, can build other applications. (Like Flash can). With OS extensions in Vista, it can build applications with impressive interfaces.

    BUT only applications built with Expression can have those

    Expression is a full functioned application that anyone can use for a multitude of ways, such as building feature rich websites, ala Flash. I used to use Flash and make simple little interfaces and animations. Expression is an end-user application - alebit some of those end-users will be devlopers making pretty impressive apps.

    Core Animation is merely a set of OS extensions for a developer to build impressive interfaces for their apps. But there is the key, it’s for developers, not end-users.

    Which means you were a bit harsh criticising it for being harder to program than Expression. Would also criticise Windows’ APIs for being hard to program?

    Core Animation is not a stand alone application that has been integrated into the OS.

    Internet Explorer was a stand-alone app that was integrated into the OS, and the big issue was that MS was moving to make it essential, so even though you could use Opera or Netscape for some things, other things you had to have IE. Of course, that was hit on the head before it went too far.

    If Vista can do fancy interfaces with Expression that match Leopard’s then that ability is probably built into the OS already - Expression is just one way of tapping into it. That is, just like Core Animation, Vista has 3D extensions built into the OS.

    Which will be better? Neither. Vista crowd will say their’s is, and the Apple crowd will definitely say their’s is.

    But I think it will more likely depend on the skill of the developer.

    Apple is going to have a 3D Finder (using Core Animation) I believe, and I bet MS will also have a 3D interface using its own animation extensions.

    I was impressed with what Expression could do, but no more impressed than what Flash has been doing for years, and Leopard did in its demo.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Did you watch the videos?

    Karl Oscar Weber had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 18
  • yes Karl. Did you watch the Leopard one? Or are you implying that on Vista, you can only make these interfaces with Expression?

    Have you checked the system requirments for the Expression preview? Windows XP. So why you telling us Expression is a “Vista capability”?

    As I said, Expression is a stand alone suite of application which allow you to do a LOT more than Core Animation, but to do things that Core Animation can do will require similar OS extensions in Vista. Otherwise you could already do it in XP and you could gleefully tell us that XP is better than Leopard.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • I’m speaking in general terms. expression is a helper for the windows presentation foundation which I mentioned earlier. which uses xaml and some other stuff. don’t need it.  Texpression IS just a program that makes the stuff. you he reason why I point it out is that there are VIDEOS of nice UI stuff in action. if there was a video somewhere else… then there you go.

    XP is not better than leopard. In fact the thing is pretty dang old. EVERONE KNOWS THIS.  Vista is the next gen so let’s compare these two.

    Vista’s been delayed for years because it looks like Microsoft has learned it’s lesson.  Don’t make buggy software.

    We will see in when the two OS’s measure up to each other when they are released.  debating pipe dream features(whether their concrete or not) is like counting your chickens before they hatch. let’s see how Leopard measure’s to Vista… and Vice versa.

    wait a second…

    1) Mac price cuts
    2) Windows jabs(ie Vista 2.0)
    3) Core Animation
    4) Time machine

    Apple is preparing for a war. I’ve seen this before in ati vs Nvidia, AMD vs Intel, etc…

    There is going to be a major Face off between Apple and Microsoft starting with Vista. I sure hope those “top Secret” features are trump cards otherwise the fight won’t be very interesting.


    Karl Oscar Weber had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 18
  • I for once agree with David Pogue (from Macitt):

    The fantasy that the marketplace is actually up for grabs does do two good things: It drives Microsoft to improve Windows, and drives Apple to continue dreaming up new directions for the desktop operating system.
    Followers of both camps, in other words, can save themselves a lot of ulcers if they just acknowledge a few facts:

    * Microsoft gets a lot of ideas from Apple; Apple also gets ideas from Microsoft. It doesn’t matter; the most expensive lawyers in Silicon Valley have established that it’s all perfectly legal.

    * Microsoft has won the market-share war, because it dominates in corporations.

    * Both companies are profitable and have very long futures ahead of them.

    * If market share were measured by individual buying decisions (rather than quantity of computers), Apple’s rank would be much higher.

    * Even if the grand prize for the “war” is individuals, families and small businesses, the perception of a much bigger war is useful; Windows Vista and Mac OS X Leopard may in fact be on completely different playing fields, but they’re both looking like the best versions ever.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 10, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • </i>Beeb said: * If market share were measured by individual buying decisions (rather than quantity of computers), Apple’s rank would be much higher.

    Do you know Beeb, I did the maths (that Aussie for math smile ) on that once. I was planning on writing an article called “Popularity Share” but even my generous figures had little impact on the Mac’s share. I’ll have to scounge around and see if i can find my calculations.

    BTW I agree with the rest of what you said.

    I think Apple is similar to the luxury car makers in that it tends to bring new innovations (even on old tchnologies such as file searching or backup) to the consumer market first, and then Windows brings it to the mass market later.

    That seems to be Apple’s major role. Dare I say it, they are Microsoft’s market acceptance testing department. smile

    Bill rings Ballmer “Hey look, you see how Apple did searching in Tiger? The people seem to like that. Let’s change direction a bit and do it that way, and tackle the much hard WinFS later.”

    Bill rings Ballmaer again: “Did you see how Apple did calendaring? The people love it. Let’s push ours that way a bit.”

    Bill rings Ballmer: “Did you see how Apple did that Automator thing? The end-users haven’t really taken to it. What can we learn from that?”

    Of course I’m sure it works the other way a little too, although MS aren’t in the position to be as experiomental as Apple, hence they are not seen as innovative:

    Steve rings Phil: “Did you see how MS just can’t crack the turn-the-filesystem-into-a-database-for-easy-file-searching? Can we find a different way to do it?”

    Steve rings Phil: “Windows users love their Alt-tab application switching. Make sure it’s in Panther. (And I’ll tell the fanboys we invented it.)”

    and so on

    Chris Howard had this to say on Aug 11, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • Page 2 of 2 pages  <  1 2
You need log in, or register, in order to comment