If “Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread”, as Alexander Pope purported 300 years ago in his poem An Essay on Criticism, then many Mac users are surely idiots and most Windows users are the blessed.
While Microsoft is about to embark on another attempt to get its zillions of passive users to switch from 2001’s Windows XP to a newer version (Windows 7) of its Mac-copying operating system, Apple has just released the latest version of Mac OS X.
Looking at visits to Macworld UK’s website (www.macworld.co.uk) just before the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, we can assume that the majority of Mac users are up to date on their OS version, with 61 per cent using OS X 10.5 Leopard, 22 per cent still on the previous 10.4 Tiger version (2005), and most of the rest running 10.3 Jaguar (2003).
On our sister site PC Advisor (www.pcadvisor.co.uk) the stats look a lot less cutting edge, with 63 per cent still using Windows XP (2001), and less than a third running the current Windows Vista (2007) version of the operating system.
It’s clear that Mac users are far more happy to switch to the latest version of the Mac OS than PC users are to whatever Microsoft waves in front of them come update time.
Pre-orders for Snow Leopard topped Amazon’s bestseller list, knocking Windows 7 clean out of the chart just days after the online retail giant put Mac OS X 10.6 on its site. (At the time of writing, Snow Leopard was still top of the software charts.)
Are we so subservient to the gods at Apple that we pay for the privilege of switching to its latest software as soon as it is available – and get much too excited in the run up to launch day? Do we love our Macs so much that we feel they must have the latest, shiniest OS version running? Could it be subliminal messages from the menubar?
A lot of us are addicted to all things Apple and all things new, but can’t afford every new Apple device… MacBook Air, iPhone 3GS, Apple TV or eight-core Mac Pro.
Buying or downloading the latest version of the operating system quickly and cheaply – very cheaply where Snow Leopard is concerned – transforms our humble MacBook, iPhone or 20in iMac back into a cutting-edge Apple product. As long as your Mac has at least one Intel chip in it, democratic young Snow Leopard will run identically on an old entry-level Mac as it will on 2009’s latest and greatest – just a wee bit slower.
I usually update my Macs at home and work to the latest Mac OS on the day of release. Sadly, because of the postal strike, my August Bank Holiday wasn’t spent busily installing Snow Leopard at home. Instead I had to go to see Chelsea thrash Burnley and spend the rest of the weekend sitting in the park with family and friends enjoying the last rays of summer sun.
But come the following Tuesday my home iMac and work MacBook Pro were bang up to date and able to boast exactly the same on-screen goodies as a £2,500 top-of-the-range Mac Pro.
And that’s about it, because I have a terrible admission to make: I don’t use any of the bright new features of the latest OS X versions. Well, almost none of them.
The initial public beta of Mac OS X – code-named Kodiak – was just one big shiny Aqua feature, with shimmering icons and fancy Dock. There were some new Apple apps and tools, such as Mail and new-look System Preferences. Everything else was just Mac OS 9 given a good polishing. Even funny old Sherlock was included.
Sherlock limped on into version 10.0, Cheetah, but new features were kept under the hood. 10.1 Puma didn’t give us much either. 10.2 Jaguar was a real step up on speed and stability and did introduce iChat. But who even remembers its other new feature, Inkwell hand-writing recognition?
But new features were aplenty in the versions that followed. 10.3 Panther had not only the coolest box of all the big cats, but supposedly 150 new features, including a brushed-metal interface, Exposé, Preview, Font Book, FileVault, iChat AV and Safari… and Sherlock’s pathetic last stand.
10.4 Tiger had another 150 new features: Spotlight, Dashboard, Automator, VoiceOver, Grapher, Dictionary, Quartz Composer, Front Row, Photo Booth, etc. 10.5 Leopard boasted a dazzling 300 more: Boot Camp, Spaces, Stacks, Quick Look, Time Machine, Podcast Capture, etc.
To my shame I really don’t knowingly use any of these features. Spaces might as well be in space. Stacks remain stacked up. Quick Look never got a look in. Boot Camp got the boot. FileVault is bricked up. Front Row is pushed to the back. iChat is sent to Coventry. Automator is stalled. Even Dashboard, after the initial feature thrill, is dashed.
The potential of Exposé remains underexposed. It’s a great feature, but nine out of the 10 times I use it are actually mistakes caused by an errant right mouse click, and so rather annoying. I do use Time Machine, but only to back up. I’ve never had to actually journey back in time using its snazzy space interface.
So that really means I use Preview and the Dock – not much of a proportion of those 600 bright new features. Really I might as well still be using OS 9. My lovely new Snow Leopard interface should be signalling my shame with a bouncing orange Classic icon.
My non-use of the latest OS X features is no problem with Snow Leopard, as it doesn’t really have any. It’s just a more streamlined and stable version of Leopard, thank goodness. That lets me off the hook this time, but you’ll still find me foolishly first in line when Mac OS X 10.7 Lion eventually arrives on the shelves with another few hundred tempting new features I know in my soul that I’ll shyly turn away from or ignore altogether.
As Pope went on to write in his Essay on Criticism: “Avoid Extreams; and shun the Fault of such, Who still are pleas’d too little, or too much” .