Vaporware has become all too prevalent in this day and age of knee-jerk competition. Announcements are made to get a jump on competitors or to steal competitors’ thunder, but the products seldom follow the announcements as closely as we would like. An unfortunate example of this problem came this spring, when Radius announced, and then shipped, the Pivot monitor. The next week, PCPC announced the Flipper – going Radius one better by adding 16-bit color. Has anyone seen the Flipper yet?
Even Apple is not immune from the perils of vaporware, with System 7.0 working its way into the Vaporware Hall of Fame. A press release this week made official what many of us have suspected for some time – that System 7.0 has slipped yet again, to the first half of 1991. The good news is that it is in beta test release now, which presumably means that developers are getting a version of System 7.0 that they can really work with, in contrast to the alpha release many received at the Developers’ Conference. This should help developers finish up the System 7.0-specific features in their applications. At least Microsoft has announced that it will not ship updates to Excel or Word until System 7.0 comes out because it wishes to take advantage of the advanced capabilities present in System 7.0.
Apple has taken a lot of grief for announcing System 7.0 so far in advance of whatever the ship date may be, but Apple’s position is unenviable. For System 7.0 to become the standard system software for most Macs, there must be a reason to switch in the form of System 7.0-studly applications, to borrow Apple’s parlance. Had Apple merely positioned System 7.0 as an upgrade to System 6.0.5, it would likely have met the same fate as Microsoft’s DOS 4.01, which has had underwhelming support from users since DOS 3.3 does basically the same things without the hassle of upgrading. Of course it doesn’t help that DOS upgrades are seldom free, whereas System 7.0 will probably follow the Apple policy of free disk distribution and $49 manuals. At this point, it seems obvious to us that Apple is trying to get System 7.0 out the door as fast as possible, but without real competition (and Windows doesn’t count, as many surveys have shown so far), Apple sees no need to release System 7.0 before it is really done. Considering what System 7.0 will do for everyone when properly applied, I personally can wait a while until Apple is ready to release the latest and greatest.
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Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor