Now that Apple's Leopard server OS, officially named Mac OS X 10.5, is due for release Oct. 26, the inevitable comparisons to Windows Vista are in full swing. But before you write off such talk as just more of the never-ending "Mac vs. Windows" argument, realize that Mac is truly serious about breaking into the Intel server market and isn't shy about pushing Redmond around a bit to get a seat at the table.
Leopard, of course, represents Apple's first major server upgrade since it shifted its hardware platform from the Power processor to Intel's chip last year. The last major upgrade was 2005's OS X 10.4, Tiger, which many observers felt had already eclipsed Vista, which came out at the end of 2006.
And while a lot of old-time Apple fans -- you know, the ones who still care about computers -- were miffed that Leopard was put on the back-burner this year while Jobs and crew ramped up the iPhone blitz, at least the company is trying to make up for it by loading it with new stuff. Apple says more than 300 features have been added to 10.5, including the Stacks file access tool, Quick Look that lets you peek at files without opening their associated application, and the Time Machine back-up system. It also offers native 32- and 64-bit support, unlike Vista and XP, which offer 32- and 64-bit in separate versions.
Of all the features, it's Time Machine that has drawn the most interest. Similar in function to Windows System Restore, Apple has come up with a nifty graphical interface that shows older files floating in 3D space, letting you flip files back and forth to find the ones you want to restore. The downside is that you need a separate back-up hard drive. Those who pre-ordered from the Apple Store can check to see what other buyers purchased along with Leopard, with the top three movers being 500 GB drives from Iomega and G-Tech and a 1 TB drive from LaCie.
Still, the need for additional storage doesn't seem to be a major stumbling block so far. CRN polled its channel sources and found that Leopard pre-orders are shooting right past the Tiger upgrade of two years ago. Part of this is no doubt due to the growth of MacIntel hardware out there, which is still only about 5 percent of the total but showing a strong growth curve nonetheless.
Part of Apple's enduring appeal has been its tight integration between hardware and software. Now that the company has embraced Intel, it will be interesting to see whether Apple can maintain that symbiosis when it is not fully in control of the hardware side. If not, Apple users will have to get used to a feature not usually found on earlier Mac OSs: bugs.