Who will upgrade when Leopard comes?
Now, I'm not going to talk about users like myself and those who visit this website here. We know we're all going to upgrade to Leopard by one way or another. Rather, I sit to speculate about the "normal" people. Will they upgrade?
My short answer is: No. Leopard simply offers nothing that people have been craving for since Panther. At least, nothing that we know of having seen so many screenshots and videos of Leopard posted on this very website. You see, Panther was this excellent OS that Apple released in 2003 and if you gave me a Panther computer to use today, I could do so comfortably and without wanting to use most of the features that Tiger provides. I couldn't do that with any version before Panther because key technologies like Exposé and Fast User Switching are missing.
Spotlight? Well, Panther does have live searching like iTunes even though it might not be instantenous and I honestly preferred Panther's simpler results window. Dashboard? Konfabulator might not be as fast or snappy, but it's there and it works if you need the functionality. Once those two main features are out of the way, let me say that the Tiger-to-Leopard transition will actually introduce more of those "little features that make your life easier" than the Panther-to-Tiger transition did. Also, most people do not use Tiger-only features like Automator.
Add to that the fact that Panther runs significantly faster on older hardware such as my G4. Also, apart from the fact that most Mac applications today place 10.3.9 as their minimum requirement and not 10.4, and you're not exactly left out as in the case of pre-Panther OS's, which didn't support features like Cocoa Bindings. Even Apple's brand new packages like iLife '06, iWork '06 and iTunes 6 will work on Panther, which speaks a great deal. The only major piece of software that I use that won't run on Panther is Final Cut Studio 5, though I admit I could just as well use version 4 and not notice the difference, since I use less than 1 percent of FCS's features anyway. All in all, Panther is an extremely usable operating system and most people I know who got it with their Macs are still using it, and have next to nothing to gain by upgrading to Tiger.
So why would they upgrade to Leopard? I don't think they would. There's a huge base of people who will, and these are not just "Mac enthusiasts" like myself but also "enthusiastic Mac users" and I know quite a few of them. Those people who just use the computer as a tool to get things done have no need to upgrade to Leopard. These are the people who prefer to keep their workflow stable. They haven't even begun using Exposé - so they have no use for Spaces or Core Animation. (I honestly couldn't use Spaces much myself.) These are people like my parents. They just want things to work. They want their apps to launch everyday without trouble, save their files without corruption, print whichever files they want to and chat with their loved ones whenever they like. All this is possible in Panther. And some old computers, like this G4, simply don't run as well on Tiger as they did on Panther, so it just makes sense.
Also, although the G3-using community might be small, let me just say that they are definitely not going to upgrade to Leopard because they simply cannot. Leopard won't have it.
Unfortunately, from all that we've heard and seen about Leopard upto this point, nothing points to it being even close to revolutionary in any way, and although it'll be a solid upgrade, I don't think we'll see a mass adoption by the Tiger-using population. Once I see some further developments (as in, I'm sure it'll be previewed again in Macworld 2007), I might decide on whether I'm going to buy it or acquire it.