Opinion: What's wrong with Mac OS X Snow Leopard

A few business-oriented features fall short for enterprise use

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Cisco VPN feature not suited for enterprisewide management

There's a similar "stopped too short" issue with Snow Leopard's support for Cisco VPNs: You can't import PCF files, so IT must manually enter the shared credentials on each Mac -- and manually update each Mac when those change. You can't send employees an e-mail with the revised PCF file and let users import it, as you can with the Cisco VPN client software. So most businesses will end up sticking with the separate Cisco VPN client instead of taking advantage of the one built into Snow Leopard. (Those that do are advised to use the most current version of the Cisco VPN client; in my testing, the version worked, but some earlier 4.9 versions did not.)

For a company that practically invented seamless user experience and plug-and-play, these "stopped too short" issues are unfathomable and unnecessary. Here's hoping for a quick OS update. My fear, though, is that Apple will ignore the issue; after all, the iPhone OS still can't support .ics calendar invitation files or Cisco VPN PCF files a year after the iPhone OS adopted the same business technologies now part of Snow Leopard.

Flight detection not so savvy

Fortunately, there are not a lot of other flaws in Snow Leopard's capabilities.

One fix I hope Apple makes is to its new Data Detector for airline flights. Data Detectors are agents that scan text in Mail, TextEdit, and other (usually Apple) applications for certain kinds of content, such as dates or phone numbers, and offer pop-up menus for that data to let you work with it. For example, if you hover your mouse over a date in Mail, the pop-up menu that appears lets you create a calendar appointment.

Snow Leopard adds a Data Detector for flights to offer a "see the flight status" capability, but it only recognizes flights that use an airline's two-letter codes, such as "DL 589." Many reservation confirmation e-mails spell out the airline's name to be user-friendly, but Snow Leopard can't see those. So if your confirmation e-mail says "Delta Air Lines 589," Snow Leopard won't know it's a flight and not give you the oh-so-convenient option of checking the flight status with a single click.

A few wishes

There a couple changes I wish Apple had made in Snow Leopard:

  • Widget display: Although widgets never took off as expected given the hype a few years ago, Apple should still make its widgets work better. When you launch a widget (an applet), you lose access to the Finder, desktop, and all running applications -- and that's silly. Widgets should run like apps, allowing you to switch among whatever you want. Windows Vista and 7 do this right; so should Mac OS X.
  • Secure FTP: It would be good -- especially for the customers that Apple added Cisco VPN support to please -- to add Secure FTP support natively to Mac OS X.

All in all, there's not much to complain about. Still, Apple should have taken its business outreach all the way. Here's hoping it does so soon.

Related stories

This story, "Opinion: What's wrong with Mac OS X Snow Leopard" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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