Sorry, Children, Leopard’s Top Secret Features Aren’t Real

by Chris Howard Oct 17, 2007

Yay, woohoo, Leopard has finally been announced! Two and a half years after the release of Tiger, that’s an almost Microsoft-esque timeframe by Apple’s standards. You’d expect Leopard to be something special, and, with 300 plus improvements, it must be. However, since Steve’s announcement 14 months ago of “top secret” new features, nothing has materialized to fit that billing. And it’s reasonable that the fans are feeling a little bit let down.

At WWDC 2006, on giving the first preview of Leopard, Steve Jobs promised there were still new features to be revealed that were “top secret.” The allusion was that revealing them would allow the mortal enemy, Microsoft, to copy them (at the last minute) into Vista, which was a few months from release.

In Steve’s own words, courtesy of Engadget, he said from the WWDC 2006 stage, “Today we want to give you a preview of Leopard. First I want to tell you there are some top secret features that we’re keeping close to the chest.”

A quick scour of the new features pages for Leopard reveals nothing significant above what was first shown way back in August 2006. Finder upgrade, Quick Look, Time Machine, Mail 3, iChat 4, Spaces, Safari 3, Parental Controls upgrade, and Boot Camp: these get top billing on the new features page. But if you’re feeling a bit of déjà vu, it’s because you saw all this at WWDC 2006.

Ironically, OS X’s own dictionary describes déjà vu as “tedious familiarity.” Who hasn’t felt a bit that way as Apple has continued to trumpet the same old new features?

At the same time, who isn’t feeling at least the smallest bit used? Patronized? Taken for granted? It’s rather easy to feel Steve has treated us like children, telling us there’s a tooth fairy when there isn’t, telling us whatever suits Apple without respect for its customers. By the way, if there are any children reading this, yes, of course the tooth fairy is real, and yes of course there are significant secret features in Leopard. Someone will find them. One day. Promise.

Some fans had held out hope until yesterday that Apple would deliver the promised top secret features. Sadly, I guess we just can’t believe what Steve tells us anymore.

Many commentators are suggesting Apple is becoming more Microsoft-like. The arguments center around Apple’s apparent growing disregard for its own customers. This “top secret” saga adds weight to their arguments. You get the impression Apple thinks it can tell us whatever it likes because we’re gullible, naive, and forgiving. It really smacks of Apple disrespecting its fans.

As for Leopard itself, although tempted to rush out and join the early adopters, I think this time I will wait a few weeks, probably until 10.5.1 comes out. That’s not to say Apple has any sort of track record like Microsoft’s disasters with first versions of operating systems. Rather, it says more about me being happy with Tiger and seeing no compelling features in Leopard to make me salivate and want to upgrade immediately. Maybe those missing top secret features would have made Leopard a compelling upgrade.

* Image courtesy of Engadget


  • Oz-nom, I’m not aware of any instance of Apple announcing availability of a product a week beforehand, providing extensive web pages on it, and yet keeping some features top secret until it is available.

    The iPod touch? What was it’s secret features users didn’t discover until they received it?

    Apple is known for its secrecy, but only until they announce the availability of the final, shipping version.

    Again, I keep saying, if there’s secret features still, why isn’t Apple spruiking it for all its worth? Why isn’t Apple telling us, “Yes, there’s still some top secret features, but we’re not telling you ‘til Friday.”?

    How much free publicity, positive press, and extra advance sales would that generate?! Ship loads!

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Chris — do you have the Leopard beta? I don’t, but others do. And here’s what they’re saying as of Oct 17th:
    “I can’t answer your question — yet. (I take non-disclosure very seriously.)”

    There are informed opinions, and there are, um, uninformed ones. Can you tell the difference?

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 11
  • “Apple wouldn’t leave it to developers to announce anything significant”

    Wil Shipley (developer of Delicious Library) said:
    “our customers are going to have to upgrade their OS if they want to upgrade our program… any app we released based on Tiger was going to look really pathetic when Leopard came out.”

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 11
  • Furthermore, people in Apple and AT&T who worked on the iPhone could NOT speak to immediate family about what they were working on until iPhone was announced almost a year ago now. Recall Steve Jobs’ comment at the D conference: “a ship that leaks from the top” and now think different: why does Apple have to say ANYTHING to please YOU when doing so may not align with their long-term strategic goals? At WWDC2007 it was “no SDK for the iPhone” and now it’s “Feb 2008” so we know that they’re playing cagey with us all.

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 11
  • The “secret” features were revealed this summer. Among others, they include Stacks, Cover Flow in the Finder, and Quick Look. None of those were mentioned during the initial Leopard introduction. Also, Notes integration with the iPhone (itself a top secret Leopard device at the time of the introduction). Plus, I think you’re going to start to see a lot of Apple’s software get revamped to take advantage of Leopard’s Core Animation (that’s the REAL secret feature).

    Originally posted by buddhistMonkey in ZDNet forums

    McBlayde had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 2
  • The secret feature isn’t a feature at all, its just the .Mac will be free with the upgrade.

    Ohwow had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Anyone who doesn’t have the Leopard beta is merely speculating about what “secret” features (if any) will be in the shipping version. Those who have the beta appear to be honoring their NDAs. That’s all we know.

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 11
  • All you have to do is check out the Apple website, look at the list of 300 features and compare it to the few features actually discussed or demo’ed at the keynote. How hard is that to figure out?

    McBlayde had this to say on Oct 18, 2007 Posts: 2
  • The 300+ features listed on the website do not, I suspect, encompass all the new things in 10.5, only those things that Apple considers to be a “feature” worth talking about to a nonspecialist audience. As I mentioned previously, we shall know one way or the other when those who are under NDA can speak freely about what they cannot discuss publicly right now.

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 19, 2007 Posts: 11
  • Yet another comment from someone bound by NDA:
    “I can tell you that as a systems engineer and geek, I am blown away by Leopard… no previous version of Mac OS X has had so much internal work done on it. The “guts” of this thing have been gone over with a fine tooth comb. It’s a true piece of art… the underpinnings are, in my opinion, where the greatest achievements were made.”


    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 19, 2007 Posts: 11
  • And if you need to see a good example of a stark difference beneath the surface, just compare the source code of with Now imagine what the source code of each OS looks like.

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 19, 2007 Posts: 11
  • heheh, you’re having fun, Victor. smile

    I am looking forward to Leopard being more efficient than Tiger.

    To me, a “top secret” feature might be Apple changing OS X to a Linux base.

    Would they keep that secret until launch? Yes.

    Would they tell us there was still a top secret feature? No, actually. (So my article would be wrong - and premature).Something that big they wouldn’t want AppleInsider and ThinkSecret sniffing around trying to find out the “top secret” feature.

    However, I still don’t expect anything significant that isn’t already known.

    Changing to Linux would be something they could easily keep quiet because it’s not a visual thing, like say adding CoverFlow to file browsing.

    Changing to Linux would also be something Apple would want to keep top secret as the ramifications for Microsoft would be massive - and Apple who’s shares could tumble if this wasn’t sold properly to the market.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 19, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Name one Linux distro that’s fully UNIX-certified, as Leopard is. That’s right, there isn’t one.

    That should give us a clue that it probably isn’t about switching from Mach/BSD to GNU/Linux. But as I pointed out, you and I don’t have the Leopard betas, so let’s wait until those who do can talk freely.

    Then we’ll all know if your article was premature or not. grin

    Victor Panlilio had this to say on Oct 19, 2007 Posts: 11
  • You know, Victor, I really hope I was premature. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 20, 2007 Posts: 1209
  • Out of all the new features, secret or otherwise, the only thing I really care about is an updated Finder, whose current momentous sucklitude continues to haunt me each and every day. 

    But I think it’s interesting that after finally getting Finder to work properly (presumably) and getting other nuts and bolts stuff worked out, Apple actually slacked off in the one area they usually excel above all others, the design.  It seems to me like Time Machine borrowed its looks from an old Geocities web page circa 1994.  And that whirling galaxy thingy splashed all over the icon and the desktop?  What decade is this?  I know it’s just eye-candy but eye-candy is supposed to be Apple’s specialty.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Oct 20, 2007 Posts: 2220
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