Apple Unleashing Tiger Tonight Amid Anticipation, Fanfare
"There are a lot of things in Tiger that have just not been done before," Jupiter Research Vice President and Research Director Michael Gartenberg said. Other analysts, though, viewed Tiger as more incremental than innovative. "Apple continues to offer evolutionary products in its Mac OS X line," Dan Kuznetsky, vice president for system software research at IDC, said.
At Apple Computer stores around the world today, when the clock strikes 6 p.m., the public will finally be able to grab Tiger by the tail.
Tiger, also known by the less evocative appellation OS X 10.4, has, by Apple's count, more than 200 new features, some of them revolutionary -- depending on with whom you talk.
Apple will also release Mac OS X Server version 10.4 Tiger at the same time. Based on the same core technology as the desktop operating system, Tiger Server integrates more than 100 leading open-source projects and standards-based applications with management tools designed to make it easy to deploy for Mac, Windows and Linux clients. "Tiger Server has the ability to better manage nodes on the network with diferent operating systems," Tim Deal, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H., told MacNewsWorld.
"There are a lot of things in Tiger that have just not been done before," Michael Gartenberg, a vice president and research director for Jupiter Research in New York City, told MacNewsWorld.
Other analysts, though, viewed Tiger as more incremental than revolutionary. "Apple continues to offer evolutionary products in its Mac OS X line," Dan Kuznetsky, vice president for system software research at IDC in Framingham, Mass., told MacNewsWorld.
However, he added, "Some of the things that they've done to enhance OS X look very enticing."
As for the launch tonight, all 105 Apple retail stores will host "Tiger World Premiere" events from 6 p.m. to midnight, offering workshops and hands-on demonstrations of Tiger's hottest features, plus giveaways at every store, including a chance to win a PowerBook G4, an iPod and more.
End of Hide and Seek
Kuznetsky cited Tiger's new Spotlight feature as a particularly attractive one for many users. Spotlight indexes and stores information on a Mac in a way that makes it easier to find.
"Finding things is often a challenge for people who are using many different forms of information and no longer storing everything that's important to them in some kind of structured data file," Kuznetsky said.
Gartenberg maintained that Spotlight will completely change the way people look at their computers. Users no longer have to spend time organizing information and can concentrate on tasks, he explained.
"For the first time," he observed, "users are going to be empowered to do things without the constraint of trying to organize and figure out where things are going to go."
"It's a very big, quantifiable difference, and Apple is going to have to demonstrate to some degree how that differentiation works," he said.
In addition to Spotlight, other high-profile features in Tiger include:
- Dashboard, which gives users quick access to useful "widgets," like clocks, calculators and stock tickers, as well as the ability to create more of their own;
- RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, a way of receiving information feeds from any Web site or blog, has been incorporated into Apple's Safari Web browser;
- IChat, Apple's Internet chat client, has been enhanced to support audio and video conferencing;
- Automator, a program for automating tasks on a computer;
- MPEG-4 support has been added to QuickTime 7, Apple's media player;
- Mac Sync, which allows seamless synchronization of information among Apple computers;
- VoiceOver, an enhanced universal interface that allows users to operate a Mac through speech and audible cues; and
- Beefed up parental controls.
More of the Pie?
While Apple, as only Apple can, has whipped its user base into a froth over the new release of OS X, the question remains whether that froth will translate into a bigger slice of the market pie.
So far, Tiger seems to be well received. As of the end of March, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Tiger, which was in pre-sales at that time, was the No. 1 selling software title, outselling even seasonal mega-seller TurboTax.
UBS Investment Research analyst Benjamin Reitzes, in New York, predicts the appeal of the new Tiger features will be popular with the 14 million Mac aficionados who already use Mac OS X. It might even persuade some of the 10 million Macintosh users who have yet to upgrade to buy the product.
"And that could be worth $1 billion in revenue to Apple this fiscal year, Reitzes estimated to the San Jose Mercury News.
Still, "An operating system alone can't increase market share," Tim Deal, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H., told MacNewsWorld.
Caught in Squeeze
"There are other factors at work," he continued. "Those factors include the cost of the hardware an operating system runs on and the marketing message that's delivered to the consumer.
Kuznetsky pointed out that OS X has a 2.7 percent market share of client operating environments worldwide. Linux's share is 2.6 percent, and Microsoft Windows holds the rest of the pie.
In the coming year, more consumers could be migrating to Apple because its systems are easy to use and emphasize things like digital photography and video editing, he noted. "However, Linux continues to grow in adoption and Microsoft continues to grow its base as well, so any other operating system is going to be squeezed in the market."
"Apple's ability to tie very interesting consumer devices into their platform might make a difference and allow Apple to continue to hold on to the No. 2 spot for client operating environment shipments," he said.
Free Shot at Longhorn
This is Apple's last shot to grab market share from Windows before the next version of that operating system, code named Longhorn, hits the market in a year, Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif., said.
"It's a good shot," he asserted. "It anticipates many of the functions that Longhorn has."
"The problem for Apple," he continued, "is that they're a vertically integrated vendor in a market that has largely rejected vertically integrated vendors."
While the Mac mini continues to gain popularity and Tiger will boost that popularity, Enderle predicted those gains will be eroded when Microsoft finally lets Longhorn out of the corral.
"I'm not convinced Apple can hold off what will be a very solid return attack by Microsoft and its aligned vendors when Longhorn ships," he opined. "It seems like every one of those vendors is gunning for the Mac mini."
Tiger will sell for a suggested retail price of US$129 for a single user license. The Tiger Family Pack, for a single-residence, five-user license, will be available for a suggested retail price of $199.
Mac OS X Server version 10.4 Tiger will sell for a suggested retail price of $499 for a 10-client edition and $999 for an unlimited-client edition. Current subscribers to the Apple Maintenance Program will receive Tiger Server as part of their service agreement.