Snow Leopard: How Serious Are the Compatibility Issues?

It’s impossible to tell from the anecdotal reports showing up here and in other forums just how serious Snow Leopard compatibility problems are. My gut feeling is that they are widespread but not pervasive, certainly nothing like the problems people had upgrading from Windows XP to Vista. Still, in reflecting on the reports, I think there are three things Apple should have done differently.

  • Apple should have provided a pre-upgrade compatibility checker like the one Microsoft offers for Win 7. This would have allowed people to find out what wouldn’t work and then make a choice whether they wanted to upgrade or wait.
  • Apple needed a public beta with a release candidate to detect the sort of problems that are turning up now but apparently did not show up in the tightly controlled betas.
  • Apple did not give third-party software and hardware vendors enough time with the final code before general availability. Microsoft released Windows 7 to manufacturing at the end of July with general availability on Oct. 22. Apple sent out final code about week before Snow Leopard went on sale. Microsoft has been using this period as a sort of extended beta; setting up a new Win 7 machine today with the gold master code, I discovered that there were already three updates available. I didn’t check what they were, but my guess is either bug fixes or new drivers.

Snow Leopard is a great product, but an ambitious one; the relatively unchanged user interface belies a major revision of the underlying code. A little more testing would have been a good idea.