The Day of the Leopard

October 26, 2007, 2:50 PM UTC

More than two years after it was announced, nearly a year and a half after it was shown to developers, and four months after its original spring 2007 due date, the sixth edition of Apple’s (AAPL) flagship Macintosh OS X goes on sale today at 6 p.m. for $129 ($199 for the family-pack).

The authorized reviews are in and they are broadly positive. Boxes containing OS X 10.5 Leopard pre-ordered online have already started to arrive by courier, and according to David Kravets at
, “BitTorrent tracker sites are churning with the seeding and leeching” of bootleg versions — activity that is expected to stop as soon as the stolen copies can be replaced with shrink-wrapped (and warranty-supported) versions.

And although there were none of the eager buyers camped out overnight in front of Apple retail outlets as there were for the iPhone, crowds are expected to gather as the evening deadline approaches. Tekserve, New York City’s premier Mac reseller before the Apple Stores arrived, has organized a Leopard release party that includes live jazz, iPod nano raffles, a iPod touch for the best Leopard costume, Leopard tote bags and a free Leopard plush toy for all attendees.

Once again, Steve Jobs has whipped the faithful into a frenzy. For weeks, the Apple blogs have been filled with rumors and screen shots and detailed histories of the evolution of key features. Some Apple watchers have already started to list features that were promised in early promotions and dropped from the final release. Unlike Microsoft’s (MSFT) Vista — which was six years in the making — Leopard is expected to be a huge success.

Tomorrow the user reviews will start to come in. Let the praise — and the whingeing — begin.