By Michael Rau
October 22, 2007
Another column - another week when Apple dominated technology news.
Let's start with OS X.
The official release date for the latest version - v10.5, code-named Leopard - was announced as being this Friday, Oct. 26th.
I'm pretty excited, but not for the reason you might expect. I'm still running version 10.3.9 on two of my Macs (I have 10.4 on my laptop) and was really looking forward to an upgrade as there are many newer apps that wont run on anything older than 10.4.
Back in '06 when Leopard was announced, I decided that I'd hold off upgrading my older units until it came out. Then in March, Apple said that it had been forced to divert developer resources to the iPhone, and would have to delay releasing Leopard until the fall.
So now that it's here, you might think I'm gonna run right out and buy it. You'd be wrong. Without exception, every initial release of the Mac OS has been buggy. When they get to 10.5.1, it'll probably be good to go. If I were you, I'd hold off until then.
Here's my other dilemma: My oldest Mac, a dual 867 MHz G4, is at the very bottom limit of Apple's system requirements for running Leopard. Does that mean that this unit will run poorly with the new OS? I'll be checking the bulletin boards to see what others experience.
As always, and unlike Vista which offers seven different versions, there's only one version of the Mac OS. It costs $129. If like me, you own more than one Mac, you can buy the Family Pack with five licenses for $199. It's a pretty good deal.
Leopard isn't revolutionary. It's more the fruit of refinement. Nothing about it will make your socks roll up and down. But it does have some cool new features, and as is the nature of the evolution of computer systems, you'll eventually need to upgrade to maximize the performance of your hardware and software.
Speaking of the iPhone, you may remember that in my quasi-review from a couple of months ago, I said that I thought the iPhone was not important as a phone so much as being a remarkable portable computer and Internet appliance.
Well I guess Apple feels the same way. Last week, they announced that they plan to release an iPhone software developers kit - commonly known as an SDK - in February. I'm sure the fact that every hacker and their brother has been working on cracking the code - mostly trying to unlock the phone to work on cell systems other than AT&T's - had something to do with this, too.
So what exactly does this mean? Actually, it's huge. It means that Apple is opening up the iPhone to third-party software developers. Sometime next year, you could start seeing all sorts of interesting applications designed to work on the iPhone pop up.
Remember - the iPhone operates on a stripped-down version of OS X, thus seemingly making third-party application development much less problematic than for other so-called smart phones with their highly specialized and proprietary operating systems.
It's also the precise mechanism that allowed, and in fact probably encouraged hackers to break into the OS and try to make the iPhone do things it wasn't originally supposed to do.
I'm probably not enough of a visionary to see the all the possibilities, but it seems likely that you'll eventually see things like some sort of browser and email client from the folks at Mozilla (the guys who develop Firefox and Thunderbird), maybe an advanced audio recording application so the device will function like a little dictaphone-type thingy, or even plug-ins for looking at Word and Excel documents.
But if you haven't bought one yet and are considering it, you need to know that all the news about iPhones isn't positive.
The folks at Greenpeace recently released a report stating that the iPhone is manufactured using some compounds considered to be toxic. As a result, the California-based Center for Environmental Health filed a 60-day notice of intent to file a lawsuit against Apple in an effort to force them to stop using the materials in question.
Apple says that they're in compliance, and some analysts who I respect have implied that the report from Greenpeace is something of a publicity stunt to tap into all the recent media attention given to the iPhone.
I have no opinion on this yet, and will wait for what I consider to be an objective evaluation. Still, I thought you should know about the report.
One other quick item:
Apple is having to sell the iPhone in France in an unlocked configuration because of French consumer laws, meaning that those phones will function on any compatible cell network.
I can't help but wonder, given the global nature of Apple's market, how long it'll take some of these unlocked phones to find their way to our shores.
Keep an eye out on eBay. I'd bet they'll show up there soon after the iPhone launch in France on November 29th.
Michael Rau is a mass-communications consultant in Virginia Beach. To send feedback or view past columns, go to http://dailypress.asoundidea.com.
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