Monday, May 20, 2024

Is Leopard Suffering from Vistaitis?

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Is it just me or is Apple’s latest installment of Mac OS X causing users to suffer from quite severe bouts of Vistaitis?

Before I go on, let’s look at what Vistaitis is:


The underlying cause of Vistaitis is unknown, but the disease characterizes itself by the sufferer displaying an intense dislike of new functions and features of an OS.

Many sufferers experience little more than a mild bout of Vistaitis that passes without any treatment. However, in a small number of cases the symptoms are so severe that even minor irritants (such as inconsistent font stylings or choice of colors) can cause users to go into fits of rage.

Vistaitis was initially confined to users of Windows Vista, but now the disease is spreading to users of other operating systems.

There’s no doubt that operating systems are getting more and more complicated with each release, and as they get more complex with each release, the chances of seeing a fully stable .0 release of an OS are pretty much zero. If you’re in the market for an OS and don’t want to go through the pains of being an early adopter (otherwise known as “beta-testing sap who’s paid for the privilege of beta testing”) then wait for the first service pack if you’re a Microsoft user, and the first update pack if you use Mac OS.

By this time the OS should be about as ready for prime time as it’s going to get. (I guess XP SP2 kind of breaks my rule here and did dramatically improve on the underlying operating system, but SP2 owes its existence to a rapidly changing security threats).

Almost as soon as Windows Vista went RTM (back in November of 2006 … good times) the operating system started receiving high volumes of criticism. Some of this criticism (quite a lot to be honest) was well deserved, relating to performance issues, hardware and software compatibility, while some was, well, little more than pedantic (whining over font inconsistencies, colors, margins, that kind of stuff).

It wasn’t surprising that Vista was greeted with suspicion – in fact it was to be expected. Windows XP had been around for so long people had forgotten all about the pains associated with changing operating systems and thought that newer meant instantly better.

XP had been around for too many years and there was bound to be a lot of user inertia. On the whole users don’t like change – any change – and since Vista bought changes with it in spades it was no surprise that Vistaitis was quite common among all types of users.

While I was expecting Vista to get a hard time, I was expecting Mac OS X “Leopard” to get a much easier ride. Why?

Simple. The Mac ecosystem is far more closed than the Windows ecosystem, and this means that there is far less to go wrong. On the release of a new OS, the Mac OS has to support a far smaller base of hardware than Windows does and as a result the average Mac OS upgrade is far less painful than a Windows upgrade.

Imagine my surprise when reports of Leopard install problems started hitting the Web shortly after its release. Users were complaining of lockup and even blue screens of death on upgrading to Leopard. Some users were so plagued by problems that they took the same action as disgruntled Vista users – downgrading to the previous version. I have personally spoken to dozens of Leopard users who were shocked by the fact that an OS upgrade (a Mac OS upgrade at that!) could render their system unusable.

OK, complaining about an issue that renders your system unusable is valid, but Vistaitis goes further than that. Vistaitis also covers complaining (whining if you want) about every little thing that that is just not perfect. This is why the complaining hasn’t stopped even though Apple has fixed most of the serious problems and even gone as far as to tweak the interface.

Once people begin to complain, they don’t stop. Over the past week alone I’ve read countless blog posts, Web pages and forum posts complaining about one aspect or feature or issue relating to Leopard.

What’s behind the massive increase in Vistaitis among Mac users? I’m going to hazard a guess that this might have more than a little to do with the huge increase in the Mac user base, many of these people moving from Windows to Mac in the hope of having their problems solved for them.

There’s nothing like having over-the-top expectations to heighten disappointment. Sure, the Mac OS is nice, but it’s not perfect. And guess what, no OS will ever be perfect.

If complaining about operating systems is set to be the norm, then both Microsoft and Apple are going to have to get used to the idea of people wanting the OS to be the way they want it, and not how the developers think it should be.

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