Blog Post

Snow Leopard’s Been Out for Six Months, Why Are So Many of Us Still Using Leopard?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

So here we are, just past the six month mark since Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard was sprung last August 28, and I’m still using OS 10.5 Leopard.

I have lots of company. The NetApplications HitsLink Market Share data for February 2010 shows that Leopard is still the most widely-used OS X version, with a 2.21 percent global market share compared to 1.8 percent for Snow Leopard, and good old OS 10.4 Tiger still hanging in at 0.72 percent.

Why the Procrastination?

So, why the procrastination about upgrading? It’s certainly not the cost holding me back. Snow Leopard is the cheapest Mac OS version upgrade in history, other than complete freebies.

Well, for one thing, Leopard works so darned well, and making a major OS upgrade always involves time investment and the hassle of upgrading at least some of your software and utilities (more about that in a moment), and I’ve been short of spare time the last several months. I also tend to be of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” persuasion, and haven’t been convinced there’s anything Snow Leopard has to offer that’s a genuine must-have for me.

Some of the improvements — things like a more responsive Finder rewritten from scratch in Cocoa, faster Time Machine backups, a more powerful version of the Preview application — sound like welcome tweaks, but nothing I find compelling. Stuff like enhanced Microsoft Exchange Server support for Mail, iCal, and Address Book have zero appeal for me since I don’t use that service or any of those features, preferring third-party alternatives. Nor do Snow Leopard’s Safari upgrades fizz me much since I favor other browsers with Safari being my fourth or fifth choice, if that.

Bitten Once…

There is also the bitten once; twice shy factor. I ordered OS 10.5 Leopard from a day or two after it was released on October 26, 2007, and immediately installed it on my then main production machine, a 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4. I’m not by nature or temperament an enthusiastic early adopter, but Leopard, hyped by Apple as being “the largest update of Mac OS X” yet, incorporating more than 300 new features, had so much cool stuff I really wanted to check out. Especially the Spaces and QuickLook features, which were every bit as good or even better than I had anticipated, and what I miss most on the two old G4 upgraded Pismo PowerBooks I still have in daily service running OS 10.4.

However, there was pain associated with my early move to Leopard, notwithstanding all the good stuff. I’m a windowshading junkie, and I simply can’t abide not having that feature, for which no function built into any version of OS X comes remotely close to being a satisfactory substitute. Windowshading’s been integrated into my work habits for more than a decade. Typically I may have two dozen or so windows open, scattered amongst nine Spaces views, mostly windowshaded, conveniently identifiable by their full title bars being visible.

Unfortunately, OS 10.5 upgrade broke third-party WindowShade X, and I was obliged to struggle along for several months without windowshading until its developer, Unsanity Software, got a Leopard-compatible version of its proprietary and required system add-on Application Enhancer (APE) out the door in February 2008, mercifully restoring WindowShade X support to Leopard.

Withdrawal too Painful to Repeat

Snow Leopard broke Windowshade X and Application Enhancer redux, and I’m not willing to go through that form of addiction withdrawal again.

Unsanity say they’re busily rewriting their more popular “haxie” add-ons to support Snow Leopard, the latest word being that WindowShade X is largely redone, its MIP system rewritten from scratch, and currently at internal beta status, a new build seeded to testers on February 13. A public beta should be released any day now. Until it is, I’m sticking with Leopard.

How about you? If you’re among the plurality of Mac users still running Leopard, and not because you’re on a PowerPC Mac, is something else in particular holding you back?

68 Responses to “Snow Leopard’s Been Out for Six Months, Why Are So Many of Us Still Using Leopard?”

  1. DWalla

    I understand where you guys are all coming from, but Snow Leopard was the smoothest upgrade I’ve ever experienced. And this baby is considerably faster than Leopard. The boot and shut down times alone have to be 1/3 that of Leopard… plus you are regaining a large amount of drive space since it doesn’t have to install the PPC code.

  2. Charles W. Moore

    A few clarification notes:

    Some appear to have missed:

    1. “Snow Leopard is the cheapest Mac OS version upgrade in history, OTHER THAN COMPLETE FREEBIES.” (emphasis added)

    2. That Windowshade X support, and therefore Unsanity’s APE, are a non-negotiable necessity in my opinion, and I look froward to upgrading to Snow Leopard when such support becomes available, at which time 10.6.3 should also be out, which should hopefully address some of the other niggles cited.

    3. “If you’re among the plurality of Mac users still running Leopard, AND NOT BECAUSE YOU’RE ON A POWERPC MAC” (emphasis added).


    • Agree regarding windowshade X. I waited until a working beta was available before upgrading to 10.6.2.
      They have working betas of windowshade and fruitmenu, you have to subscribe to a twitter feed to get the URLs, look on their webpage.

  3. jcsimmons

    I’m waiting for the iApps to refresh. Then I’ll get the package with Snow Leopard, iLife and iWork. My theory is: the refreshed apps will all take advantage of the speed enhancements that SL introduces (using multiple processors, multiple cores, multiple threads and unused graphics processing power) and I will save a little money.

  4. MrMojo

    Hey! I still use Eudora and I don’t care for IMAP, so what of it? Nothing comes close to Eudora although I am hopeful that MailForge will be able to replace Eudora once the software matures a bit…

    I always wait until the third version (at least…) of a major OS upgrade. I did so with Leopard and upgrading was the most painless OS change I have ever experienced.

    My preferred way to upgrade the OS is to upgrade a bootable clone on an external drive. I can then thoroughly check for hardware/software compatibility before I upgrade the internal volumes on my Macs. If there is a major glitch it is easy to keep on being productive using the old OS until the bugs are worked-out.

  5. just upgraded to Snow Leopard a month ago, honestly didn’t notice much improvement. in fact, my mac sometimes act funny, perhaps some bugs aren’t fix yet. granted, i didn’t do a clean install, instead i only clean the cache, and kept the stuff i wanted to keep from the time machine backup.
    i think most people using Leopard aren’t missing much at all. as a casual user (student), the biggest improved application was Preview, i love all the pdf editing capabilities, but the biggest letdown is the completely redesigned Quicktime X, it is just inferior compare to my QT 7 Pro, so I kept that as my default player.
    overall, i do like using Snow Leopard, everything works fine for me, but if your Leopard is running smoothly, then frankly i find the upgrade unnecessary.

  6. SL does not play nicely with thumb drives for those of us who have to move files back and forth between OS and Windows. I thought of uninstalling, but instead I am waiting patiently for Apple to fix the issue. My old PPC, of course, won’t run SL but the PPC works great and has for six years and until Jobs pulls the rod out of his nether regions and makes BluRay an option I won’t be replacing that PPC. Had I known that SL had an issue with thumb drives (this seems rather basic, and I am surprised that Apple didn’t catch the problem), I would not have bought and installed it at all. I switched to Mac’s to avoid Windows problems, but SL makes me feel a little like I did when I had only Windows machines.

  7. Have you guys heard of back ups? Takes a lot of the danger out of an upgrade. I upgraded the day of release, 6 machines in total without drama. I have since installed 10.6.2 on an asus netbook and that went smoothly so I am sure most of you guys can get through it on actual apple hardware. I generally do a few searches to see if there is anything cropping up during the upgrade process to be prepared but have never really had anything but good luck and like I mentioned, if you have a working bootable back up ( and you should ) then you can always just copy that back over if something doesn’t work out for you. Don’t be scared.

    That aside it’s mostly just complacency, lack of compelling features or fear that keeps people from upgrading. That is if they know of the upgrade to begin with. Many not being as tech savvy ( or obsessed ) as some of us likely are.

  8. Allyson

    I’m still using Leopard… I did buy Snow Leopard when it came out but I haven’t felt comfortable installing it yet. I only got my first Mac in June 2009 so I’m not very experienced with the Mac and upgrades, etc. Plus, I’ve kept my eye on the compatibility list and I haven’t heard outright that CS4 is compatible and I use Photoshop a lot.

    I figure I’ll wait until Snow Leopard has had more updates or when support for Leopard is sparse and I have to upgrade. I have no problem with Leopard so I see no reason to upgrade right now.

  9. Gazoobee

    Charles, I think you’re just foolish. It’s as simple as that. Sorry to be blunt, but that’s why most people haven’t upgraded also.

    Leopard itself was a “rocky” upgrade that totally revamped so many things, many people had problems with it. However, because it was “teh shiny,” most (like the author), went ahead anyway.

    Snow Leopard was the “fix” for all the little things that went wrong with Leopard, but many (like the author), because it doesn’t actually have any of “teh shiny” are not bothering to upgrade.

    It’s just stupidity and human nature. I run into clients every day who are scared to upgrade to Snow Leopard “because they’ve heard of people having problems,” or because “they want to wait for all the problems to be worked out first, ” or some such similar nonsense. Look it up people, and you’ll find this just isn’t the case. Nothings perfect, but Snow Leopard actually doesn’t have a long list of “problems” and is close to a no-brainer upgrade as you’ll ever get.

    You’re just a scared monkey who’s had his fingers burned and now has some irrational fear driving his life. My advice is get over it, grow up, use your head, and go with the facts. Snow Leopard is a great upgrade and any users of plain old Leopard who are “not sure” if they should upgrade are just dithering over absolutely nothing at all.

  10. I made the switch right away because my G5 blew its power supply. A refurb mini was the same cost as fixing my G5. I picked up a second refurb mini for my kids. Their otherwise perfectly good 1.2GHz G4 with upgraded video card simply couldn’t handle any of the flash based kids websites out there. Games at fewer than 5 fps simply aren’t playable.

  11. SL has been like Windows ME. It scraped TimeMachine on install (and did it two additional times after that). Somethings seems to have a mind of their own (activating/disactivating). Icons are a temporary feature. It sometimes crawls to a stop for no reason whatsoever (and nothing shows up in the monitor as a valid cause).
    Safari is nitro stable. Yeah sure… Flash. But then Chrome and Firefox just plain work.
    Overall, it works but is annoying as hell with all these little glitch. I would not do it again. Leopard is a much better system.
    (MBP Santa, 4gb, 500gb, 2.6ghz)

  12. I’m still using 10.5.8 for the reasons you listed in your article plus there’s no .3 (10.6.3) update yet and only 1 of my 3 machines can run it. I’ve learned to avoid the .0 as it’s nothing better than forced out the door to make some date (and likely contains nasty bugs). The .1 is just everything that should have been in the .0 and more like a public beta. The .2 is the first mostly stable version (usually) and the first one to contain any fixes for widely reported problems (but non-critical yet annoying stuff is probably left unfixed). The .3 coming out generally approximately 6 months after the .0 (we’re about due, I expect it no later than the week before the MaxiPod [April 3rd]) usually works much, much better — I’ll install it on a flash drive so I can test some source code I release and I expect that’ll be all I have to do with 10.6.x unless I buy a new machine that requires it (I’m wanting a MacMini).

  13. MrMojo

    I have had Snow Leopard since the first month of its release, but it sits unopened on a shelf…

    Like Charles I need my Mac(s) to be fully functional and I don’t want to take the time to upgrade. The major stumbling block? My Apple LaserWriter 360 printer, still going strong even though I purchased it new in 1995 for $1350 (!)
    I even have a Belkin USB Parallel Printer Adapter cable that will apparently allow it to continue on its merry way under SL. (I bought SL before hearing about the printer issue…)

    I am also waiting for APE to be updated… Beats the heck out of me why it takes the Unsanity folks so friggin’ long to update their software! It was the same way with Leopard; they were the last major software developer on my list to get it together MONTHS after 10.5 was released to the general public.

  14. Genemaster

    My PowerBook G4 and PowerMac G4 cannot run it.
    Waiting for new MacBook Pro models with i7 and new MacPro…Hopefully, Apple will remember that many people also buy computers and don’t care/need iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

  15. Michael G.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want Snow Leopard, but I’m still using an iMac G5 at home. When I get a new machine, I’ll get Snow Leopard….or maybe iPhone OS 4.0.

  16. Ah, newbe Mac users…

    Snow Leopard is NOT the cheapest Mac OS update in history. All Mac OS updates before OS 7.6 (the one nobody bought) came out were FREE. You must have meant Mac OS “X” updates.

    You seemed to have forgotten a large number of Mac users out there (me included) that can’t afford to upgrade their Macs yet and are sticking with their very useable PPC Macs.

    Also, almost all of the “new” stuff in Snow Leopard is infrastructure stuff for future software that has yet to be written. So why update until you get some real benefit, while loosing access to some old reliable hardware; for a slightly faster Finder?!?

    • Terrin

      No offense, but that is a farce. Sure, there aren’t a lot of in your face improvements, however, the OS is about twenty percent faster and there are lots of small appreciated improvements

  17. Fledermaus

    Adopted SL on day of release. After it screwed the pooch four separate times – necessitating wiping a disk and starting over – I gave up on it. I soon learned that when I got the “IOPCIFamily.kext was installed improperly” error, the disk had become unbootable and unrepairable, and that round of the game was over. That last happened to me in December 2009. Judging by Apple’s Logic Pro forum content as of last night, SL (through 10.6.2) still does not play nice with Logic Pro (9.1). SL also does not like some of my go-to audio plug-ins. No usable Logic under SL, therefore no SL. Simple. 10.5.8 works; SL doesn’t.

  18. Anthony

    I’ll have to add, I was hesitant because of compatibility issues I’ve heard about, namely CS3. With the iPhone 3.2 beta sdk I had to update and I’m loving it. CS3 as said above still works great, cisco VPN need a reinstall, but works now. The speed is by far worth it. Do it!

  19. This story is a total reach … for starters, the difference in the two OS’s share is 0.4%.

    Secondly, your “story” dismisses the single largest factor, which is simply “ineligibility.” Even a fourth-grader could have worked out that a lot of Mac users are still on PPC machines … they’re not prone to throw out a working Mac and buy a new computer just because the latest OS requires an Intel (that sounds more like “Windows thinking” to me!). Mac users have great machines and are generally not in a mad rush to upgrade software, particularly if its working well. Simple as that.

    Finally, this is a total non-issue in the first place. Inevitably, every single one of the PPC and/or Leopard-using Mac owners will have to move on, if for no other reason than because they had to replace their machine at some point.

    If there’s a story here at all, it’s that Snow Leopard is running on 45% of the Mac base within six months, the exact opposite of your pro-Leopard spin. That’s a remarkable adoption rate, let’s ask Microsoft how well Vista got adopted, or how well Win 7 has been adopted — my guess is that the 50% mark is still a long way off for them …

    I don’t mean to diss Leopard here — it’s great, particularly for PPC owners — but to infer (as you have) that there’s something wrong with SL or that it’s not a “hit” is pretty biased and based on nothing. The truth of the matter is that the transition to Intel has been a *massive* success, and the adoption rate of SL only proves that. Imagine Microsoft telling their userbase that they’re all moving to non-Intel chips starting next year and what the reaction would be …

    • Terrin

      Bingo. A large percentage of Mac users are still running Power PC machines, including many big universities.

      I upgraded and Snow Leopard has a lot nice small refinements and is much faster. I use CS3, and I haven’t noticed any problems.

  20. Haven’t jumped aboard yet, mainly because I’ve heard Snow Leopard doesn’t play nice with Adobe Illustrator. (I still use CS and it doesn’t show up on the Wiki compatibility chart.) Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll happily slap down my $30 to upgrade…

  21. I haven’t upgraded, despite that initially tempting price, because of having CS3 apps that I need for work. I can’t afford to go buy them all over again. I’d love 10.6, but not a chance till I can have my CS3.

  22. Kenneth H

    For me, I upgraded right out of the bat and didn’t have many issues. However, it did break Quicksilver and Kanji Go. I have learned to live without both, but I would really love to have both back.

  23. Someone

    Am guessing its the universities and the colleges that are the people who are not upgrading. My uni is still using windows 2000 on some machines and there is no sight of windows vista or windows 7 on the rest of them. On the older macs they have, there is still OSX 10.4 on them! Why? No one wants to upgrade if they can do what they can do with what they have got already.

    At the end of the day, the application developers had more the 6 months to get their software working right, if they have not, then I suggest going to another software vendor with a decent alternative because compatibility is a dieing excuse for not upgrading.

  24. Still on Leopard. For the price, there’s nothing I need. Though I hear it’s necessary for the new magic mouse, thinger. I may go to both of those in the next month, but I’ve been saying that for, what, 3 months now?

    Don’t hold your breath… ;)

  25. Neither Mustek nor Apple have come up with a driver that works for Mustek’s 11X17 scanner. As a comic artist, that’s a huge deal-breaker for me.

    I also teach art and design, but now that I’m using for screen capture, I have no use for Quicktime X.