Snow Leopard Could Be Apple's Vista

Apple's Snow Leopard has some serious bugs. So what? Every major operating system upgrade has bugs. However, it's possible that Snow Leopard is buggier than that, that it will prove to be a lemon and a drag on the company as Vista was for Microsoft.

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

September 8, 2009

4 Min Read

Apple's Snow Leopard has some serious bugs. So what? Every major operating system upgrade has bugs. However, it's possible that Snow Leopard is buggier than that, that it will prove to be a lemon and a drag on the company as Vista was for Microsoft.At least, that's what the Christian Science Monitor says, in a piece headlined, "Will Snow Leopard Be Apple's Windows Vista?"

Between the list of more than 100 Mac programs that no longer work because of the update and the rampant reports of bricked machines seemingly tied to Snow Leopard, Apple has had a rough week.

Occasional graphics issues or incompatibilities are common with new OS releases - and Apple will likely correct many of the problems in due time - but the flood of articles, blogs, and forum posts this week has some drawing comparisons between Snow Leopard and a certain infamous Windows OS.

Bugs and problems so far: Upgrading to Snow Leopard causes a boot failure resulting in the endless display of a spinning icon known as the "spinning wheel of death," although Apple and Mac enthusiasts have suggested fixes. The operating system drew mixed reviews soon after it was released. Apple used an old version of Flash in Snow Leopard, which had security flaws, and did the same thing with Java, which required a patch.

Apple enthusiast Merlin Mann, author of the 43Folders productivity blog, posted an angry rant on another blog of his, Kung Fu Grippe, about problems upgrading five computers to Snow Leopard. He also criticized Apple apologists, and wrote an imaginary dialogue with one:

"Did you know how much time and effort was put into making this OS innovative and subtly enhanced?"

"Yes. I read about that. But my apps keep crashing. Like, a lot."

"What apps, Mr. Mann?"

"Lots of them. Ones I use a lot. Almost seems like the developers of some super-popular apps were testing against a different build. It's weird."


"Yes. Totally. Crashy crash crash crash. It's bananas."

"Did you know how much innovation and subtle refinement this new release represents?"

"Like I say, yeah. It's fast. It's efficient. It's slightly prettier."


"Yeah. Very slightly. It's fine. But a bunch of my shit is broken (on 5 machines) so now I'm blowing time trying to track down updates (on 5 machines) plus miming through all the usual dot-something kabuki of re-entering serials (on 5 machines) and re-okaying launchd preferences (on 5 machines) and re-approving firewall permissions (on 5 machines). It's a tremendous amount of hassle given that I'm mostly doing it just to stay up to date (on 5 machines)."


"Yes. Really."

So, is Snow Leopard a lemon, or are these simply the bug reports and complaints that surface with any new operating-system release? I'm going to say it's the latter -- that the bugs in Snow Leopard aren't a big deal (except for the unlucky few, like Merlin Mann, who got stung by the bad bugs). My reasoning: For the past 12 years, since the return of Steve Jobs, it's been a bad idea to bet against Apple. The company is on a winning streak. The overwhelming majority of Mac users will be able to upgrade to Snow Leopard easily, and the bugs experienced by a few users will be ironed out quickly.

Don't bet against Apple. Ever.

On the other hand, there really is no compelling reason why you need to upgrade to Snow Leopard right away. If you're happy with Leopard, then just sit tight and watch InformationWeek and other news sites, until we let you know that Apple has distributed the first major Snow Leopard patch, which should be pretty soon, simply because that's how Apple has handled major OS updates in the past. And then sit tight a few days more, and watch InformationWeek and other Apple news sites, to make sure the patch doesn't introduce major new bugs of its own. Then and only then, a few weeks from now, go ahead and upgrade to Snow Leopard. But make a full, bootable backup of your hard drive first, just to make sure.

Me, I upgraded to Snow Leopard Saturday. The upgrade was fast and uneventful, the way major software upgrades should be. I can't say I see much difference between it and Leopard, although there are one or two minor user interface enhancements that I like. I'm not seeing any of the performance improvements that Snow Leopard reportedly brings, probably because I'm running it on a new machine and I haven't yet tried doing anything that requires much system power.

How about you? Have you upgraded? How's it working out for you?

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on why businesses shouldn't shrug off Google's upcoming Chrome OS. Download the report here (registration required).

Follow InformationWeek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn:

Twitter: @InformationWeek @IWpremium @MitchWagner

Facebook: InformationWeek Mitch Wagner

LinkedIn: InformationWeek Mitch Wagner

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights