It's finally here, Mac OS 10.5; also known as Mac OS X Leopard. For those of you that are not Mac heads, THIS IS A REALLY BIG EVENT. More so than a new notebook model, desktop model, iPhone or yes even iPod. Why? Simple, this is something nearly every Macintosh owner can experience. Not everyone can buy a new computer, but for only $129 (cheaper if they shop around) they can purchase new features and enable their beautiful computer to wonderful new things. Some they will experience as soon as the upgrade is done, others as developers take advantage of the new features.
If you are not big into Macs and Apple you will have a hard time truly understanding the significance of this OS release. When Vista came out there was much to do about nothing. Yes Vista has been in development for more than 5 years and yes it has lots of pretty new options, but current computer owners weren't clamoring to upgrade from Windows XP. An OS that with all of its flaws, was mature and worked very well for 99.99% of the user community. Vista, like Windows 2000 and even XP, came out of the gate with a host of problems and nearly a year after Vista's release; it still has problems.
The Mac OS X release is a totally different story. While yes Tiger, the previous release (Leopard is the current), is an extremely stable and capable OS users are clamoring to get their hands on the new version. Part of that clamoring is related to the Cult de Mac that eventually infects most Mac owners, part of that clamoring is that Mac owners know that with a new OS release new functionality is both here today and is coming tomorrow. 300 new features, many of those are building blocks for Apple and 3rd party developers to do amazing things with the applications that will be released in the coming months. The applications that make you go "WOW" I didn't know my computer could do that! With Windows, there isn't often an application that is released that blows your mind away, at least not one that costs under $100.
Why? Well, for most PC users the computer is a tool, maybe a necessity. It is utilitarian in nature. For a most Mac users the computer is an extension of their personal selves. It's sleek and sexy and stands for all that is right in the world. Okay, i may be overstating things a little; but not much. Mac users believe it is as much about form as it is function; and reliable, has to be reliable. OS X is an extension of that belief, and the applications than run on OS X play right into the hands of that belief and foster that belief. Amazingly, mostly done by small developers with applications costing well under $100.
Last night I went to the Mall to experience the Leopard Launch Party. World wide Leopard was being released at 6:00 pm local time, that's Apple's new marketing tool. It works too. I got the mall around 5:15 and took a look at the line, it was 150 people deep. I wasn't interested in standing in line as I wasn't buying the OS (gotta wait till Christmas), but I still wanted to say i was there and see what happened; oh and get a free t-shirt.
The store closed at 4:00 to prepare and at a few minutes to 6:00 they raised the gate. All of the store employees lined up, free t-shirts in hand, and as the 6:00 hour approached the energy around the store rose. The employees began clapping and one ingenious employee pulled out his iPhone and went to the Apple website. On Apple's site was a countdown clock. As 10 seconds approach he began to yell "10, 9, 8..." then the whole store irrupted in unison, "...7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!" By now the line was getting itchy and the very first person in line was escorted into the store.
Less you think this "first person" was some prickly faced teen, a goth clad rage against the man type, or an IT Guru ready for the thrills of fresh OS X install; you may be surprised to learn that it was an older dimunitive woman probably in her 60's. She casually walked in, got her free t-shrit and presumably purchased a copy of OS 10.5. As I reviewed the line, I can honestly say that it looked like a pretty ordinary line. It could have been a book signing; in fact folks walking by seemed to think that was it. The word of Leopard's release had gone far and wide, but many folks passing by apparently had neither been far or wide.
I stood outside the line watching these happy folks, many carrying iPhone (no surprise), walking into the store, getting their t-shirts and some amazingly walking out with their signature Apple sack only minutes later. No doubt headed directly home to be one of the first to install Leopard. I chatted with a fellow Mac Head for a while and then he and I both decided that we would entertain our selves in some other fashion while the line dwindled. While he headed to Sharper Image, I was off to Chic-Filet for dinner.
Eventually i did get into line, although it was about 15 people deep and I casually strolled into the store, it was about 6:50. As I walked in employees at the entrance cheered and handed me a t-shirt. Without much fuss or knee cramps I got my t-shirt and was still one of the first to see Leopard, live and in action.
I didn't go to the launch of Vista, and I do know that around the world geeks were lined up; but I don't think you saw the diversity that I saw last night. While Leopard is great and its new features are amazing, the new Mac lovers are just as amazing. I saw old ladies, old men, moms, dads, kids, obvious geeks, businessmen and every other stereotype you can think of walk into the store with genuine interest and purpose of mission. They do all seem to have one thing in common, the desire to have an computing experience that isn't just easy, but has style. It was as much about having the latest and greatest, as a belief they were getting the best.
When I left the store around 8:00, after seeing all the cool new features in person, I strolled down the mall with my t-shirt in hand and no copy of Leopard (remember, not till Christmas) thinking that when i finally do install Leopard I will be pretty happy. I also felt like I was part of a bigger more diverse group than I had ever realized. That's a pretty cool feeling, especially when you realize I'm talking about a operating system and computing environment.
If you have an Apple Store in your town, go check out Leopard and the latest Macs. Don't let your Windows side tell you the Mac can't do anything, just see for yourself how much fun using a computer can be and all that you can do while you are having fun. That's what owning a Mac is really all about, that's what owning a computer is really all about.