Jaguar release catapults Apple sales

update It's a company record. Consumers snap up more than 100,000 copies of the OS X 10.2 operating system the first weekend it goes on sale, according to Apple.

4 min read
update More than 100,000 copies of Apple Computer's OS X 10.2 operating system were sold worldwide during its first weekend, the company said.

The launch of the OS X update, also known as Jaguar, set a new record for Apple. The company also said that more than 50,000 people visited its retail stores Friday night for a special promotion tied to the release.

That promotion included a discount on other in-store products for those who paid full price--$129 for a single user, $199 for a single-residence, five-user package--for the OS.

"Jaguar is our fastest out-of-the-gate OS release ever, and it's looking like a home run," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement.

The update to Apple's OS includes features targeted at Microsoft Windows users, which is part of Apple's campaign to get people to switch to Macs. New features include iChat, an instant-messaging client compatible with the popular AOL Instant Messaging network, and a handwriting recognition feature called Inkwell.

Many of Apple's 35 retail stores reported record crowds, in some cases thousands of people, standing in line to get one of the first copies of Mac OS X 10.2.

A sales associate at Apple's first retail store, located at Tysons Corner mall in McLean, Va., said people started lining up around 8 p.m. EDT for the 10:20 p.m. Jaguar sales event. "It was like the opening day crowds," he said.

Most of Apple's retail stores stayed open later than the anticipated midnight closings to handle the huge crowds that turned up for the launch events. The Tysons store kept the doors open until about 2:30 a.m. EDT, rather than turning customers away.

"We didn't want to cause a riot," the sales associate said.

The store was still quite busy on Sunday, with long lines of people waiting to buy either Jaguar or other products.

Russ White, a technology consultant and Mac user living in Northern California, said the Palo Alto, Calif., Apple Store stayed open past 3 a.m. PDT. "Judging by the lines at the Apple Store (on Friday) night, and morning shopping traffic (on Saturday) morning, Jaguar has been a highly anticipated product release. If (Friday) night's exodus of Jaguar boxes, Cinema Displays and Dual G4 towers is any indicator, Apple can expect a nice bump for their (fourth quarter) numbers."

Thumbs-up from veteran users
Many longtime Mac users reacted favorably to Jaguar, which is the second upgrade since Apple released Mac OS X in March 2001. Much of the spit and polish on Jaguar, which adds 150 new features from Mac OS X 10.1.5, makes up for some things missing in earlier versions, Mac users said.

"While Mac OS X 10.1.5 was functional, the polish was not on the operating system," said Jack Howarth, a Mac user from Cincinnati, Ohio. "Considering that Apple had to port 15 years worth of interface design onto Mac OS X, it isn't surprising that they put stability first."

Howarth also praised Apple's pricing, something that had irked some other Mac users. Apple chose to price the release as if it were a new OS, rather than an update. But Howarth said 10.2 makes OS X so good the cost is justified.

One of Apple's biggest problems has been getting existing users to switch from the older Mac OS 9. But catch-up features, missing either in the older Mac OS or competing Windows XP, may turn the tide in terms of upgrades.

"For me, 10.2 is like coming home to some features I really missed from OS 9," said James Rolevink, an Adelaide, South Australia, Apple dealer. "I feel as though I have just bought a truckload of what would otherwise be really useful third party add-ons, but they are all an integral part of the OS."

Rolevink, who also is a computer sciences student, couldn't praise Mac OS X enough. "I can say that you would be mad not to upgrade," he said. This is Unix at its absolute slickest, so why would you want to miss out?"

Apple is hoping that Unix-based Mac OS X will appeal to existing Unix users and to those that have been experimenting with Linux. But the company's first target would appear to be potential PC switchers.

In June, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company launched an ad campaign and Web site focused on wooing existing PC users to the Mac. Apple estimates that about 40 percent of people shopping in Apple retail stores are PC users. Apple also hopes to lure back former Mac users that now use PCs.

Howarth used his boss as an example of the potential success of Apple's switchers campaign.

"He used Macs up until about 5 years ago, when he switched to Windows," Howarth said. "Just a few months back, he decided he had had enough pain and suffering and asked me to order him a dual-processor (Power Mac) G4--so much for the myth that Windows users won't switch."

But as Apple goes on the offensive, some PC companies are returning the favor. Gateway on Monday launched a new ad campaign that in part lampoons Apple's iMac. Poway, Calif.-based Gateway hopes to nudge potential Mac switchers toward its Profile 4, which, like the iMac, incorporates a flat-panel monitor into its design.

News.com's Margaret Kane contributed to this report.