Leopard is tarnishing the reputation of OS X

This year I spoke at about ten international conferences and a couple of other meetings, starting with MacWorld in San Francisco in January. At each event, I kept noticing more and more developers on Macs. So much so that sometimes a sea of luminescent apples would greet me when I looked into the audience. And I've probably done my little bit to nudge quite a number of people onto Macs. Not because I own any stock in Apple (*doh*) but rather because switching from Windows to OS X (Tiger) made me love playing with computers again after 23 years on PCs.

My recent upgrade to Leopard, however, has left me with a sour taste in my mouth and I've started questioning whether Apple is truly committed to OS X and the computing business or whether those will take a back seat now to its mobile and devices business.

I've previously blogged about how difficult the upgrade process was for me (the installer refused to recognize that I had a hard disk in my MacBook Pro until I forced it to see it by saving the EULA on it) and how my keyboard randomly freezes (this happened to me about a dozen times yesterday while hacking out the countdown timer for Seb during the conference). But two things happened yesterday during my presentation that left me thinking that the mistakes that Apple is making with Leopard will ultimately hurt the image of OS X quite a bit.

Firstly, I saw Mike Jones apologize to the audience before starting his presentation that he was running Leopard and that he was sorry if it screwed up (he then went on to recount how horrible his upgrade experience was and how he had to reinstall it from scratch). I also found myself giving the same apology before my talk. If there was anyone in the audience considering an upgrade to Leopard (or buying a computer with Leopard on it), you can rest assured that they probably will not (or will think long and hard before they do).

Secondly, Keynote screwed up. Twice during my talk, it jumped to the last slide. This left me in the awkward position of having to rummage through my slides and restart my presentation. Twice! At first I thought that I had done something wrong -- pressed the wrong button or something (user's always initially blame themselves for errors). However, after my talk, someone in the audience Stephen Pollard came up to me and told me how he had just taught a three-day course and had Keynote do the same thing to him several times under Leopard.

I'm now considering whether I should downgrade to Tiger.

At the start of this post, I mentioned how much penetration OS X was getting with speakers and developers (the very people that others turn to for advice on which computer to buy). What is going to happen now that speakers realize that Keynote on Leopard is not reliable and may make them look bad in front of an audience? How many will downgrade to Tiger or begin their talks with a disclaimer about how unreliable Leopard is?

And how many more will have their keyboards freeze in front of a large audience?

How many will be greeted with jeers of "Get Windows!"

The final straw for me with Windows was having to stand in front of an audience in Australia while we all waited for Windows to verify my hard disk after crashing spectacularly in the middle of my talk. My keyboard freezing in the middle of a talk may just have the same effect on me for OS X. The darn thing is, I just can't go back to Windows -- it's a dark place that I want to forget about. So what do I do? Linux? Maybe I'll start flirting with it on an EEE PC but I don't think I could switch to it full time. A trip back to Tiger looks like the only viable alternative.

Please, Apple, fix the installer, those debilitating keyboard freezes, and the Keynote instability. If nothing else, these issues are affecting the very people that influence large numbers of others. OS X's reputation is being tarnished as we speak, and, if left unchecked, will continue to do so.

Why, Apple, did you take a polished, stable operating system (Tiger) and release an upgrade that lacks the key ingredients that made people love it? In case you're wondering what those were, they weren't eye candy and pizazz. They were stability, reliability and an impeccable polish.

I want those things back. You can keep the shiny 3D dock!