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Steve Jobs' claims for the forthcoming Apple operating system raise questions of security, storage innovation and channel appeal.

It can't be much fun to be a vendor of a mainstream desktop operating system.

On any given day, one might face reports of a new security vulnerability. One might be accused of harboring, or even authoring, spyware. One might hear complaints that one's pace of innovation had slowed, with more time elapsing between less dramatic updates to one's crown-jewel operating system.

Welcome, Apple Computer, to the mainstream.

When Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs the week of Aug. 7 showed features of the forthcoming OS X 10.5, code-named (and most likely also to be trade-named) Leopard, he showed no sign of lowering the strength of the reality distortion field that he's famous for generating around his product and technology announcements.

If anything, Jobs actually turned the knob up to 11 by claiming that next spring's general release of Leopard would steal a march on Microsoft, delivering to Apple users the equivalent of "Vista 2.0."

That kind of claim, now that Apple and Microsoft have become direct rivals on essentially identical hardware platforms, represents a challenge that eWEEK Labs will not hesitate to take up.

We feel obligated to ask: What should enterprise and other mainstream system buyers expect to get from Vista 1.0 when it ships at about the same time as Leopard, and is it remotely plausible for Jobs to suggest that Leopard will be a left-of-decimal jump ahead within the same quarter of next year?

Whether Jobs has gone over the top or not, we have to begin by saying that Microsoft has seriously drained (and perhaps even poisoned) the once-overflowing well of good will that it has long enjoyed among application developers. To look back at past Microsoft Professional Developers Conference presentations, and to ruminate on the bent or broken promises of the so-called "three pillars of Longhorn," is to marvel at how far short of those goals the company has now reconfigured its aims.

Vista was formerly envisioned as a sophisticated reinvention of associative storage, coupled to networked resources with powerful communication frameworks and made accessible to users with dramatic new data and multimedia visualizations.

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