Rain doesn't stop Leopard from roaring in NYC

Rain and wind didn't stop the Mac faithful from turning up for the Leopard launch in New York City.

Even pouring rain and gusty winds didn't stop the Mac faithful from turning out for the release of Apple's Mac OS X "Leopard" at the Apple Store in New York's SoHo neighborhood.

The sidewalk in front of the store and around the corner was a sea of colored umbrellas as about 200 people lined up to be among the first to purchase Leopard in North America. Those who hadn't prepared for the weather hunched under pieces of cardboard or just got wet, as people bustled past on busy Prince Street and wondered aloud what all the fuss was about.

The New York launch was part of a worldwide rollout of Leopard, which went on sale at 6 p.m. local time around the world Friday, beginning in Australia and New Zealand. Rain also plagued the Leopard launch in Tokyo, which marked the first place the OS went on sale at an official Apple Store, but didn't deter users from lining up ahead of the time there, either.

A New York Mac enthusiast named Adam was first in line outside the SoHo store, saying he arrived at 2:00 p.m. and was joined about a half hour later by other Mac enthusiasts. Strangely enough, Adam, who owns three Mac computers and frequents Apple Stores when the company launches new products, was not there to buy Leopard. He merely wanted the free T-shirt Apple was giving out to people waiting in line to purchase the OS.

"They're difficult to get unless you live in Cupertino and can go to the Apple store," he said, adding that he would purchase Leopard in about six months after Apple had "worked out the kinks."

Unlike Adam, others shivering in line said they were there to be among the first to get their hands on Leopard. Still, it wasn't just the OS that inspired people to wait in the rain. Douglas Packer, also of New York, said that although he was looking forward to using Leopard -- particularly its new Time Machine and Spaces features -- he was also was there "for the experience."

"Everyone's more excited about it, and being here with other people waiting makes it more fun than just a piece of software," said Packer, who works in video production.

Time Machine is a new feature in Leopard that allows for automatic back-up of files, while Spaces enables the user to create and manage virtual desktops.

Another user waiting to purchase Leopard who gave props to Time Machine was Evan Herman, also of New York. But he also said he was "probably the only person in line" excited about the Back to My Mac feature of Leopard, which makes it easy for users to set up the ability to remotely log in to a Leopard machine from anywhere.

Herman said this feature will make it easy for him to help troubleshoot problems on his parents' Mac, which he finds himself doing often enough on the phone anyway.

Herman switched from Microsoft Windows to a Mac three years ago when he left a position providing desktop support to PCs. He said he regularly joins the queue for major Apple releases and has stood in line for both the Tiger release of OS X and the iPhone.

Leopard is the first major upgrade Apple has made to its OS in two and a half years. The software will be installed on all new Apple computers, or costs US$129 for an upgrade. Apple has said the vast majority of Macs sold over the past four years will be able to run Leopard, as well as some older machines, depending on their configuration.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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