How Much Did iPhone Development Hurt Leopard? | Cult of Mac

How Much Did iPhone Development Hurt Leopard?



At this point, it’s pretty clear that everyone loves the iPhone. Celebrities, executives, Time Magazine, even my Uncle Jim. It’s Apple’s biggest sensation since the original launch of the iPod, and a break-out success all around.

Unfortunately, the June arrival of the iPhone came at a cost. Apple had to delay the launch of its Leopard operating system by months in order to pull software developers off the Leopard team and onto the iPhone team. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. If anything, I presumed only good could come of mingling iPhone DNA with Leopard DNA.

But it’s mainly been frustrating. The delays were bad enough, but it really does appear that the switch-up had an impact on the overall quality of the shipping version of Leopard. I can’t think of an operating system from Apple since OS X 10.0 so filled with bugs and questionable design decisions. There are whole communities devoted solely to the documentation of Leopard bugs.

Worse, some of the intentional choices with Leopard aren’t up to Apple’s standards.There are many wonderful features like QuickLook and Time Machine, but a lot of the new interface elements are just flashy for the sake of flashiness. CoverFlow is goofy for browsing through anything other than photos in the Finder, and I will never understand the logic of a translucent menu bar as long as I live.

I’m never going to join the throng calling Leopard the new Vista, but I do have to wonder: How much did the stress put on the Leopard team to finish the iPhone disrupt the shipping version of the OS? This is a team that definitely put in 80, 90 hour weeks if not longer to finish the iPhone and then had to go straight back onto Leopard to meet an ambitious ship date. Whose quality wouldn’t take a hit under such circumstances?

What do you think? This is the first time in memory when I can recall a core Mac product being impeded or hampered by a more pressing new market product for Apple. What does that mean for the six-color bleeding Mac faithful? Are you bugged, or just delighted you got your iPhone on time?

72 responses to “How Much Did iPhone Development Hurt Leopard?”

  1. Jon says:


    I must admit, I just don’t agree with you on this one. I’ve had no problems at all with Leopard, had a great clean install experience and find it fast and stable. As to the menu bar, I am still taken aback at the ferocity of the response to a frankly small feature IMHO!



  2. eimantas says:

    i’m just wondering when will Leopard get as solid as Tiger. Although i am sitting on a Leopard right now, i’m really thinking about downgrading. And no, iPhone is not in my country yet so i’m just waiting fot and iPhone with 3G support. Can’t live without that one.

  3. Joseph says:

    OS X is clearly at the center of the Apple ecosystem, but tightly integrated devices like the iPhone add a whole lot of value. For example, iCal stuck at home on my desktop was nearly useless to me before. But now with its tight integration with the iPhone’s calendar, I’ve found it to be a near-ideal calendar solution. Said another way, the iPhone has allowed me to get more value out of my Mac. So while I agree that focus on the iPhone may have hurt Leopard when looking at each from a standalone perspective, I think that through synergy a device like the iPhone actually adds plenty of value to OS X.

    That said, I agree that Leopard has some flaws, like the useless translucency of the menu bar. But at the end of the day, Apple has limited resources and has to make tough decisions on where to allocate them. Based on how much value I feel I’ve got from Apple’s recent products (including Leopard), I’d say Apple is making pretty good choices. It seems solidly focused on creating an ecosystem of tightly integrated products centered around the Mac. I mean, imagine if Jobs decided to sacrifice Mac OS development to build an internet search and advertising business? Sounds crazy, I know, but apparently there are some CEOs who disagree.

  4. Steve says:

    I’ve had a couple of issues with Leopard myself, and was frankly a bit disappointed in it. A reinstall from scratch seems to have satisfied my MBP, but I’m still having some issues with my son’s iBook – even after a reinstall. Overall, though, I’m quite pleased with it. It’s *still* much less painful than *any* Windows upgrade I’ve endured. Oh, as far as the iPhone? Phooey. Nice phone, from what I hear. Not willing to switch to slower, nastier AT&T because of the phone. My Palm Treo will have to suffice.

  5. Alistair Kerr says:

    Went to see a demonstration by the local Apple reseller of Leopard and was impressed, love the idea of Time Machine. Didn’t hand over the cash there and then for a copy and to be honest I’m glad. I think I’ll now wait till the boys in the programming department are properly rested and have time to sort out the bugs. It’s a shame that the iPhone development has had such an effect on OSX 10.5, the iPhone here in the UK hasn’t had the kind of take up that we saw in the States, probably due to the phone companies here giving phones away for free when you sign up to a network, but I’m looking forward to the 3G iPhone that will be with us next year, especially if they pop a bigger pixel camera in it, oh and a flash would be good to (it gets really dark here in the UK at this time of year). The iPhone has just won the accalade of best technology product of 2007 from one of our top TV gadget shows, that should please the boys at Cupertino.

  6. Maurice says:

    hmm not sure a os developer would be able to quickly change to a mobile device developer – they are quite different.

  7. Sam says:

    Translucent menu bar. Oh, the horrors. If you think CoverFlow is anything but brilliant (“Goofy”?), future UI enhancements will probably not benefit you. Leopard has fewer issues than any previous OS launch of this magnitude, and jumps considerably in capabilities.

  8. Walt says:

    I love my iphone. I love my translucent bar and new dock. I love coverflow, especially in the finder when not looking at photos. I have had not a single issue with leopard. I only use about five 3rd party apps.

  9. Ryu says:

    Well, while I agree with your comment that Leopard isnt exactly very stable at 10.5.1 currently, I have to disagree on the interface question.

    Obviously from the sales numbers a lot of people are liking the new interface, such as the translucent menubar and the dock. It has also been shown that the look of the dock can easily be changed. This is exactly a perfect response to those who used to criticize apple for not allowing people to modify the look for OS X easily.

    Furthermore, the Leopard look spearheaded development of even more applications designed to either make specific use of the new functions, such as Candybar 3, or to eliminate the so-called problems some Apple die-hards have problems adjusting to, like the new menubar.

    Even ubuntu developers are copying Leopard’s new look lol!

  10. Jeff MacArthur says:

    I was a bit surprised but Cover Flow IS actually useful for more than just photos. I use it to quickly add up my monthly hours at the top of my daily Excel timesheets; I use it to tell versions of my Word docs from one another just by looking at the cover page; etc. Certainly of no use with folders or zipped files, but it’s great for a lot more than just pictures.

    Jeff –

  11. eli says:

    Just switched to mac this month. Leopard is my first experience with (my own) OSX. I have the keyboard lock-up glitch, and there are a few other issues, but this thread is a testament to the very high standards in the mac community. Complaining about pretty transparency?! It’s fast, quite reliable, easy to use. The best OS I’ve used by far. Cover flow is also nice for sorting through pdf and students’ papers at a glance. Plus, it’s purdy.

  12. Lasse Nikolaisen says:

    One comment on coverflow. I used it for the first time in a business meeting the day after I installed Lepard.No time for learning. Used it to quickly find minutes from meetings and project status reports, looking for certain phrases and figures as well as dates. It worked like heaven. Other participants were lost in their explorers.This is a feature that is more than a show off
    Beside from this, of course there are quality(stability) problems in Leopard.
    Main reason will usually be lack of testing during time in wider communities. But I guess most of all the reason it is a tradeoff between what is regarded as “good enough” against perfection(which one never will reach). The “bleeding edge” community has to suffer, and they should know that.(at least “switches” like myself)


  13. Dad says:

    “Even” your Uncle Jim? He’s whatever comes before “early adopter.”

  14. Charlie Kinyon says:

    I have an iPhone – and I simply love it!
    Installed OS X 10.5 first day of it’s release – absolutely no problems at all.
    The bugs I’ve read about the OS are so minor. Compared to the turd that is Vista, Leopard ROCKS!

  15. Eric says:

    The one thing that really bugs me is the lack of folder features in the doc. I meticulously arrange my files in folders and sub-folders, so that I can easily locate files on my own. I used the dock for folders so that I could quickly dig into my folder structure to find the file I was looking for. I can no longer do that with Leopard, and it drives me nuts. The other issue is that smart folders do not “stack.” I have folders for my recent PDFs and Pages documents in the dock, and with Leopard they just open the folders, rather than shooting out in a stack.

    The upside is that being able to combine PDFs in Preview is really, really nice.

  16. David says:

    I have been wholly underwhelmed by Leopard and really wish I had stuck it out with Tiger for a while longer. I had two weeks of installation woes between my Powerbook and intel iMac. I was berated on the Apple support forums for not doing better pre-install research and not compiling multi-redundant backups (I am 100% serious). I remember when you could insert an Apple upgrade and actually use it later that day – all without studying / cleaning / fixing / and creating bootable clones of your prior system. This was a big disappointment for me – still waiting for the upgrades which bring Leopard into basic functional parity with Tiger…

  17. PAAVOPETIE says:

    There are some things that Apple should have included with 10.5. For instance, a pass-through phone utility between my iMac and my iPhone. When it’s in my bag, I want it to pause my iTunes music and be able to answer the call on my computer.

    Also, Front Row was in need of drastic improvements. And all they did was copy over the software from Apple TV. Wow. (Sarcasm.)

    And Time Machine as the best feature? Not really. 90% of us don’t need it. Yeah, the updates to Mail were pretty nice. They even added a To Do List to iCal. But I have no way of syncing that To Do List with my iPhone. So I added AA batteries to my list at home, and when I’m out at the store, I can’t remember what I needed.

    Also, don’t you think it was time to merge iCal and Mail. Or does Microsoft have a patent on that with Outlook?

    All in all, it isn’t worth $129. I’m glad I got it for free through the AMP program at my school.

  18. Aaron says:

    In my opinion Leopard is like Tiger but better, sure there are a few bugs and of course there are “whole communities” devoted to squashing them, that’s just our great Mac community in action. However if you look at the list of bugs they are pretty minimal and nothing to really discourage anybody from upgrading. Honestly I didn’t really enjoy this post too much it seems out of line with the norm.

  19. Andrew DK says:

    I haven’t upgraded yet for this exact reason. Tiger works nice and well (except for the most recent update breaking Safari) with few problems, plus I am a customization nut. Now that’s the biggest problem I have with leopard, why the hell do I HAVE to accept all the changes to the UI?

    I like Adium WAY better than iChat ’cause I can customize it to look how I want. I use Candybar so I can make all the little icons I have to stare at all the time look the way I want them to. Why aren’t these features simply an option in the system preferences? Obviously many Mac fans are all about the customization as your next post attests to.

  20. angus Shangus says:

    I recently purchased a macbook w/ Leopard factory installed. I have had none issues of the issues people are reporting. The only issue I’ve had is iChat has caused my laptop to panic twice forcing a hard restart. I REALLY like how Leopard sees other computers on a network. That feature is a huge improvement over Tiger which i haven’t noticed anyone reporting on. I really like spaces and have gotten into setting apps to open automatically into different spaces. In all I like Leopard and am actually quite surprised with the negative reviews.

  21. sdude says:

    Time Machine fucking sucks – I’ve tried for 2 weeks to get it to backup my G5 and nothing. I could have a bad drive but it is brand new and anyway time machine gives me no advice as to what’s going on – it just hangs. They definitely pushed TM out the door before it was ready. I will never upgrade a Mac OS immediately every again. They fucked up.

  22. marc cardwell says:

    i installed leopard on a brand new MBP 2.2, and have only had one glitch w/ the keyboard and trackpad locking up sometimes. a restart cures that. don’t like coverflow in the finder? don’t use it. i can’t or the life of understand why some people are so freaked out over the bit of transparency in the menubar. get your panties out of the wad they’re in, stop the hissyfits and get back to work.

  23. Bill Olson says:

    Customization be damned. You guy’s customize your computers until they don’t run anymore and then blame the company that made the product and expect them to fix what you broke.

    TimeMachine works perfect for me. Zero problems. But then I don’t customize my machine. I just use it to create things like documents, presentations including short movies and update several websites that I also manage (it takes very little time to update them).

    You only use CoverFlow to view pictures? Someone needs to sit down and show you have great it is for previewing documents. Like one poster said, using Coverflow to find a specific document is fast while Windows users fumble all over the place looking for their documents with explorer.

  24. Andrew DK says:

    Um, I’m not blaming anyone for my computer being broke, which it isn’t. I did say that Apple’s latest update to Tiger did break one their own applications, but I just trashed it and reinstalled from a backup.

    A backup, mind you, that I made manually, not with Time Machine. I’ve never used TM, or Leopard for that matter, and haven’t broken anything due to the apps I use to customize the look of my Mac.

    Not sure what you’re smokin…

  25. Ryan says:

    What’s the author’s base for saying that the team who designed iPhone was the same team who developed Leopard?? Besides, OS within iPhone isn’t anything developed from scratch. Translucent menu is part of the concept, you guys definitely need more time to feel the art before jumping so soon to the conclusion. Those people who had problems after installing Leopard by upgrading, it’s not fair to blame on Leopard. Probably you should clean install if upgrade is problematic.

  26. imajoebob says:

    Coverflow is goofy, when analysed discretely. But having matching UI elements across the product line is important, and makes the different products feel part of the same family, and adds to the overall “user experience.”

    My impression is that many of the “gee whiz” stuff was decided long ago. And the real reason for the new(ish0 look was to present a “new” Intel-centric OS. From the start, Apple has worked (too?) hard to make Tiger appear much more than just another evolutionary upgrade. I think a lot of the bugs are due to Intel “eccentricities,” not the basic design or coding (I wonder if anyone is documenting PPC v. Intel bugs?).

    I was initially surprised that they made it Universal, until I remembered that there are still more PPC Macs out there than Intels. But I’ll betcha 10.6 (Civet? Lynx? Lion? Fluffy?) will be Intel only.

  27. mark says:

    I got Leopard the day it was released and the only bug I have experienced was actually a third party app bug. Removed the app, problem gone. Otherwise, 10.5 has been incredibly stable on my MBP. No crashes, re-boots, nothing. Just works.

    I cannot honestly say I am using any of the new features. Coverflow is a joke for looking at individual files. I get the sense that a lot of little problems like networking, sharing, printing are much improved.

    I am in the camp of glad I got my iphone when I did. They will patch Leopard. I am sure in time, it will be rock solid for most users.

  28. ian says:

    yeah another product that’s suffered in the delay is Apeture. I am one of many pros waiting for Apple to update all the problems Aperture has, and speed it up. The Aperture team was pulled off the App to get Leopard out the door and so we have a slow buggy product that runs kinda ok on this shiny new OS

  29. Pinkylbh3 says:

    Here’s a thought… if you need to use a personal computer, and if you don’t like Leopard, then you’re in a world of hurt because there isn’t much of anything out there that’s uniformly better.

  30. Andrew DK says:

    “But I’ll betcha 10.6 (Civet? Lynx? Lion? Fluffy?) will be Intel only.”

    Mac OS 10.6 “Fluffy”

    I cast my vote for that.

  31. Tadas S says:

    I have to agree with you. When I ran my MacBook under Tiger, there were nearly no problems at all with the OSystem. Though, when I upgraded to the new Leopard, problems keep on showing up. From small problems like external hard drives randomly not showing up in finder, to problems relating to the keyboard not responding when coming out of sleep. I also I think that my problems maybe have to do with that I upgraded and not just made a clean install, but who knows. Still. These problems I did NEVER have under Tiger nor with Panther.
    The all so stable and inferior Mac OS X is at the time a quite a buggy and in my opinion not that inferior to even Vista (almost anyway :P).

    / T.S

  32. Albert Hartwig says:

    He All,

    I just re- installed my girlfriends Powerbook 17″ from Leopard to 10.4.11.
    In combi with h Adobe CS it wa abs. not workable. Too many problems. Seems to work great again on the old system


  33. Reuben Halper says:

    I agree wholeheartedly, it’s not just the initial behavior, but also that the performance seems to fluctuate, sometimes being stable, sometimes extremely unstable. For instance, I’ve been lucky enough in the past three days to begin experiencing complete system freezes which require a hard shutdown.

  34. AH says:

    Working professionally with graphics, Leopard with Cover-flow and Quick-look makes us fly. It’s just absolutely incredible how good this is!
    Working with graphics require a neutral environment and the translucent menu bar goes down in brightness a little bit when selecting a middle grey background for the desktop, nice but It would be very nice if the transparency could be user controlled in the future!

    All this together with improved Spotlight speeds makes Leopard almost groundbreaking but of course, if graphics is not your game I really don’t see the upgrade as important.

    (Yeah, Aperture is of course a pain together with Leo, as Ian wrote. We’ll give them a couple of more weeks then I guess we have to get angry :)

  35. Si says:

    I’ve not bought Leopard, but a few weeks after it’s release went to a retail store to have a play around with it and was incredibly underwhelmed.

    The new Finder was nice enough, but not earth-shattering – arguably, it’s what the Finder should’ve been like circa the release of Tiger as it’s been so underpowered for so long.

    Having every app look consistent is great, but apart from that I was struggling to find anything that seemed like a ‘wow!’ upgrade.

    So I’d agree with the article – I think that iPhone really did hurt Leopard. It seems as if what we have is pretty much what was shown at WWDC 2006 and the new and amazing features that Jobs hinted at were pulled because of resource issues i.e. all hands on deck for iPhone.

    Things that could/should’ve been in Leopard is a complete UI overhaul – something that does for desktops what the iPhone has done for er, phones i.e. a significant evolution of the point and click paradigm. Perhaps something that allowed people to forget where their files were instead of having to worry about where to save things i.e. Gmail for the file-system.

    But nothing like that seems to there for Leopard…

    As addicted as I am to all things shiny and new from Apple, I’m really finding it a struggle to find a good reason to upgrade – I think that it’ll only be when a stunning must have but Leopard only app appears.

    I never thought that I’d be thinking about this about Leopard, but it just doesn’t seem to be very compelling…

  36. jmmx says:

    I have my own little gripes with Leopard, though none of them are what I would call serious. (Maybe some problems we are having with printing from the laptop will get into that category.)

    BUT– man, please don’t belittle Cover-flow and Quick-Look!! (however you spell them)

    I have written a novel with 34 chapters, I have written a score of letters to agents & publishers each a little different. With these two tool I can scan all these document so EASILY! It is just incredible! Can you imagine thousands of photos without a browser? This pair of tools alone is worth the price of the upgrade to me!

    – jmmx – One happy camper