Will Apple’s Leopard Leap Ahead?

by Chris Howard Jun 29, 2006

The very appropriately named Leopard is fast approaching. And just as Leopard sounds like “leap ahead”, the expectation is that with 10.5, OS X will really leap ahead of Windows, including Vista. By all reports, Vista should bring Windows up somewhere near Tiger’s standard. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Apple has another cat to let out of the bag at the same time as Vista.

Unlike the previous iterations of OS X, which produced some noticeable advances, Leopard may produce some revolutionary advances. Strip away the eye candy from Tiger such as Expose and Dashboard, and Spotlight is the only revolutionary advancement since the original OS X. (Some people might like to argue for things like CoreImage, CoreVideo and some other under the hood stuff.)

Some of the rumors re: Leopard improvements could be considered evolutionary. MacRumors provides a list of some of these such as: enhancements to Finder and Spotlight; integrated geographical mapping; collaborative editing; and resolution independence. Checkout the MacRumors Leopard page for more info on each of those.

But one rumored enhancement will be revolutionary. Although Apple may surprise us all and produce something else, or take any of the evolutionary steps so far ahead that we’d have to call them revolutionary. Fingers crossed that Finder and Spotlight might receive the revolutionary treatment.

In its 22 year history, the Mac has always labored under the limitation of having no built-in compatibility with Microsoft OS-based software. What if that changes with Leopard?

The big leap, the revolution, is rumored to be virtualization. That is, running multiple OSes side by side. Okay, so we’ve been able to do it for years (provided you’re the sort who watches snail races for excitement) and Parallels Desktop provides the functionality already for Intel Macs. But what we really want is it to be inbuilt into the operating system.

In the 21st century, the ideal computer would run any operating system thrown at it - and what’s more, side-by-side, with no rebooting. Apple is closer to the realization of that grail than either Linux or Microsoft. Of course, Apple does make it easier by threatening to sue the butt off anyone who tries to run OS X on anything besides a Mac.

How will this happen in Leopard? We already know about Boot Camp which allows dual-booting and Parallels offers its application for running OSes side-by-side on Intel Macs. But a question arises. What’s going on between Apple and Parallels?

Many folks on the web have pointed out that Apple is promoting Parallels, instead of Boot Camp or Virtual PC, as the solution for running Windows on Macs. The web is buzzing with pundits theorizing if it’s possible Apple will buddy up with Parallels—either a takeover or some other sort of relationship. Given Microsoft took over Virtual PC, it is possible Apple could also take the same path and buy out Parallels. The reasons would be different though. Microsoft wanted Virtual PC so it could provide backward compatibility with legacy Windows applications rather than having to continually build it into future versions of Windows. Apple on the other hand, would want Parallels to allow you to run non-Apple OSes, Windows in particular, on Macs.

Will Leopard include not only Boot Camp, but Parallels? Will that be Apple’s solution for virtualization that has been rumored ever since Apple went Intel? Even if Apple only has a partnership with Parallels to provide virtualization for Leopard, that is going to get a lot of press, and maybe even then my former IT peers might take notice.

Leaping ahead
Tiger is more advanced than Windows XP - although there is still functionality in XP I’d like to see on OS X - and Vista at best will be on par with Tiger. Events at Microsoft indicate as much. For example, it dropped WinFS (first from the first release of Vista, and now altogether) which would have put Spotlight in the shade, plus with Virtual PC Express, Microsoft prove it is legacy Windows applications that is the focus of its virtualization efforts - no great advancement there… “Oooh! I can run Windows applications on Windows!”

Anyone who doubts Leopard will be revolutionary should consider this press release from Apple:

Apple® today announced that CEO Steve Jobs will headline a team of Apple executives, including Philip Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing; Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of Software Engineering; and Scott Forstall, vice president of Platform Experience, to kick off the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a keynote preview of Mac OS® X “Leopard” on Monday, August 7, 2006

How long since an Apple keynote has packed that much executive grunt?

Leopard will be the next generation, containing more significant advancements than Panther or Tiger. With improvements to Finder and Spotlight; a few Apple surprises; and when you throw in virtualization, which is looking more and more a certainty and probably via Parallels, Leopard will leap ahead in the 21st century OS wars.






  • The one thing about WINE (WINE Is Not an Emulator) as far as I know -C2N

    Wine is neither a VM nor an emulator. What it is, and this is a very high-level description, it is an API-level “hook” Ridirector. It merely tries to “catch” all calls to win32, then “hooks” those calls to its open-sourced nearly-equivalent API layer.

    That is the reason only win32 apps that conform to published specifications and not “hacked” methods are the ones that run just fine - although with performance penalties.

    I am not a developer of WINE but I have strong familiarity with their approach. This is why M$ will not take them to court. Their approach is borderline legal, but not to justify a patent infringement suit. More of that in later editions…

    Robomac had this to say on Jun 30, 2006 Posts: 846
  • I think regardless of the licensing issues, I don’t see Apple allowing .exe files to run under any circumstances.  Is the compatibility (which would have obvious advantages) worth the security risk? -Bbx

    They will never allow “native” execution of win32, .Net, whatever. Not just security reasons.

    The “Red Box” idea was exactly this way. It would spawn its own virtual memory space - hence “Red Box” and in this space, only it and itself are allowed to roam. So, even if one of those .exe malware tries to takeover the “Red Box”, its privileges are limited to only within that box. To the main OSX privileged resource handler, it is merely a malfunctioning thread/process that can be “killed” and restarted.

    But Mac faithfuls, do not concern yourselves of this imminent rumour because:

    1. Apple can care less of implementing Amelio’s “Red Box” idea.
    2. Apple has better plans than natively executing win32, .exe, or .Net apps.
    3. Steve will not bow to Balmer’s licensing fees (not that he’s even thinking of it).
    4. OSX is much more capable host OS than Windows will ever be.
    5. They are presently courting Parallel’s gem.
    6. Their developers are busy brainstorming the next cat - Cheshire? <Devanshu>
    7. Mac faithfuls are too busy installing Boot Camp and getting it to work.
    8. The idea plainly emits putrid odor.
    9. Bbx’s structural security meltdown scenario.
    10. And this is the most important…I hate it. <do not debate me on this one>.

    Robomac had this to say on Jun 30, 2006 Posts: 846
  • As a side note to this article, M$ has been confirmed by one of the main developers of the much-maligned WinFS file-system.

    Charles Miller’s blog (http://fishbowl.pastiche.org/2006/06/25/we_come_to_bury_winfs) has officially *buried* the asses of this once-touted by Bill himself as the most revolutionary technology in Vista. One of my tech gurus, Dick Scoble, also has some insights of this (http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2006/06/25/has-microsoft-changed-winfs-post-getting-questioned-internally/).

    Now, Leopard truly is revolutionary compared to the skinned version of Vista this coming fall. My Mac faithfuls everywhere, let’s observe a quick 2 picoseconds of our thoughts to a lost fiend - Windows File Service.

    Robomac had this to say on Jul 02, 2006 Posts: 846
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