When Steve Jobs showed off Leopard at this year's WWDC conference , the reaction was immediate: Apple 's share price fell by 3 per cent. The stock market had spoken, and its verdict was more "boo" than "woo".
Leopard 's top-secret new features turned out to be a few interface tweaks. The rumoured development environment for the iPhone turned out to be AJAX. And Steve Jobs failed to announce new Macs, a teleport or a giant robot army. The Mac massive wanted something new and shiny on the scale of the iPod, but essentially got the iPod hi-fi instead.
That's a shame, because Leopard includes some clever things. The new Finder is a big step forward. And while some of Leopard's improvements are familiar to Windows users - Vista-style file stacks, CoverFlow's resemblance to a souped-up Filmstrip view, Time Machine's similarities to System Restore and Vista's file recovery features - Apple has implemented them with much more style.
Under the hood there's genuine 64-bit computing without the need to choose between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the operating system. There's also improved Boot Camp for working with Windows, better networking and what appears to be the beginnings of a major overhaul of the .mac web service. And of course, Leopard will be much cheaper than the decent versions of Vista.
Same boat as Vista
In addition to Leopard, Jobs' keynote included some other goodies. Safari for Windows means Apple now offers developers a browser that works on Macs, PCs and iPhone, which should at least encourage them to test their sites on Safari. And while the announcement of a new gaming engine from ID software was short of content, it did suggest that the Mac's days as a gaming also-ran may be numbered.
The problem with Leopard itself, though, is that when it comes to operating systems, Apple's in the same boat as Microsoft was with Vista. Once you've covered the basics, there's only so much tweaking you can do - and with Leopard, Jobs unveiled most of its tweaking back in 2006.
WWDC '07 was always going to be about minor operating system improvements. But the fans wanted full-screen iPods, new Macs, new Cinema Displays, a MacBook smaller than an atom and 342-inch MacBook Pros that hover in the air and fire laser beams at Windows users.
In some respects Apple has become a victim of its own success, and of Jobs' showmanship. Updating operating systems is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one. But fanboys and financiers have come to expect jaw-dropping, market defining, insanely great things from every single announcement.
And Jobs' earlier comments about super-secret Leopard features that he couldn't possibly talk about for fear of theft certainly fuelled those expectations. The result? Leopard looks great but maybe not insanely great, so the fanboys fume and the share price gets a spanking.