Tiger: First Impressions

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Details about Tiger are still emerging, but a majority of the participants in the Macworld Reader Panel like what they've seen of the next major update to OS X so far. Three weeks after Apple offered a first look at Tiger during its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), market-research firm Karlin Associates surveyed 3,634 Macworld readers to gauge their reaction to the OS X update. Here's what they had to say.

The 3,634 members of our reader panel are fairly well informed about Tiger -- 80 percent have been exposed to some information about the forthcoming OS X update. Print or online coverage has been the most popular source of information at 63 percent. Another 47 percent visited Apple's Tiger "sneak preview" Web page. (Respondents were able to select more than one answer.) However, not everyone is showing interest in Tiger at this point. One in five -- 20 percent -- say they haven't followed news about the OS X update closely at all.

Steve Jobs must have done a good job outlining Tiger's new features during his WWDC keynote. With little more than Jobs' speech to go by, 52 percent of the poll respondents had positive things to say about Tiger, with 31 percent hailing it as a "major leap" for OS X. Only 8 percent expressed a negative reaction. But Apple still has some work to do in educating Mac users about Tiger -- 40 percent of the readers surveyed said they didn't have enough information to form an opinion about the OS update.

Apple touts Spotlight as a revolutionary addition to Tiger, and our survey respondents seem to agree -- 24 percent cited the new searching technology as Tiger's most important new feature in terms of how it would affect them personally. "I think Spotlight alone is worth the upgrade price," one respondent said. "When Steve Jobs found that small item on the PDF map during his keynote simply by typing a name, it literally blew my mind." Of course, the people we surveyed saw room for improvement. "My current understanding of Spotlight is that it can only hook into applications that separate out their data on a file-by-file basis," one respondent said. "This precludes searching of things such as an Entourage e-mail database, which is a real disappointment."

Tiger's support for 64-bit memory addressing garnered the next largest response, with 19 percent calling it the most important feature. That was followed by the automation tool Automator (14 percent) -- "worth the price all by itself," one respondent said -- the RSS-enabled Safari 2.0 (13 percent), and the widget-controlling Dashboard (12 percent). "I thought it was a great addition," a respondent told us. "I am really excited for new ways to use the widgets."

So what's missing from Tiger? We asked the Macworld Reader Panel an open-ended question about what features are missing from the OS X update, and we got an earful. Most of the suggestions ranged from general calls to improve OS X's performance from specific requests to update iApps, include games such as Solitaire, and add other features. Here are some of the responses that caught our attention:

  • Spring-loaded Dock icons;
  • Other messaging programs integrated into iChat AV;
  • An Entourage-style application based on combining revamped versions of Address Book, iCal, and Mail;
  • Safari improvements such as smart pop-up blocking and a smart download manager;
  • A switching system for managing incoming faxes and voice messages;
  • Trash on the Desktop instead of the Dock;
  • A tabbed Finder and tabbed chatting similar to the tabbed browsing in Safari;
  • Greater expansion of Sherlock's capabilities;
  • Integrated audio recording; and
  • A lower price than the $129 Apple has charged for the Jaguar and Panther upgrades.
  • Then again, some respondents were more than satisfied with what they've heard about Tiger. "There isn't really anything that I think is missing," one respondent wrote when asked about missing features. "But then again, I never knew I would miss several things about Panther until I had to switch to a Windows box for a week. Apple stays one step ahead of my needs, for the most part."

    If Tiger were available right now, nearly three-fourths of 3,629 poll respondents answering would buy it. Only 11 percent described themselves as very unlikely to buy Tiger. But with the OS update not slated to ship until sometime during the first six months of 2005, Apple has plenty of time to change their minds.

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