Should Snow Leopard have been a Leopard point release?

I am a fan of Leo Laporte and his numerous podcasts, but sometimes he just seems to blow hot and cold on a subject.

This weekend Leo was bashing Snow Leopard basically saying the features should have been released as point releases to Leopard instead of charging $29 for Snow Leopard.  Of course previously Leo well aware that this OS was mainly a under the hood upgrade seemed to be excited about it and you have to wonder why he seemed so upset about it on TWIT and his talk show.  None of the facts about Snow Leopard changed.

Mainly though his new opposition is not very well thought out.  For example Snow Leopard drops PowerPC support and this is certainly the direction Apple needed to move in.  Since they went with Intel they have been having to maintain support for two processors which both causes code bloat and is a time drag.  With roughly only ten percent of Mac users still using PowerPC based systems it is also a timely thing to do and of course Leopard is still a great OS for those users.  It just would not be possible to stop PowerPC support as a point release in Leopard.  Besides being a major change it would certainly alienate PowerPC users in Leopard.  This is rather a major point for a otherwise knowledgeable tech pundit to make.

There are some other behind the scenes changes that breaks support with programs.  While compatibility with programs is pretty good, there is certainly a number of programs that don’t currently work with Snow Leopard. Rolling these changes into a point release in Leopard would have been a major disaster.  Right now people can wait to upgrade to Snow Leopard at a point of time they are comfortable doing so and the programs they use fully working.  This is certainly not the case with point releases for the most part.

As to Leo saying that Snow Leopard should at least have been free considering that on the surface it does not have a bunch of new features is another point I would disagree on.  Snow Leopard has been in development for almost two years and while it has a small number of new features a  lot of code has been rewritten from Carbon to Cocoa including the Finder which has been totally rewritten.  These changes themselves will increase system response and performance.  Some of the major additions such as Grand Central and OpenCL are things that will pay off in the future as software developers take advantage of them.  No doubt in the future we will see things like iLife and iWork taking advantage of both of these new features.  There are many little touches made in the OS also.  As an application developer I think it would be silly for a company to spend this much time improving an OS and then charge nothing for the release.  It would be one thing if Apple had charged their normal price for an OS version change, but certainly $29 is not unreasonable and of course Apple really never over-hyped the changes in Snow Leopard in the first place. QuickTime X has been totally revamped and now includes features that you had to buy with a Pro version (no Pro version this time at all.)  Additionally Quicktime X supports http streaming over any server which certainly is much more cost effective and does not require a specific protocol.  Whether http streaming will take off is another thing, but it is certainly a useful feature.

So I believe Leo to be wrong on both points and calling for this to be just a point release really is not defensible.