Apple claims Leopard sales break 2M in first weekend

As expected, new Mac OS X edition is selling faster than Tiger in '05

Apple said it has shipped more than 2 million copies of Leopard, the Mac OS X upgrade it released globally last Friday.

"Despite some of the naysayers saying that it was an evolutionary release, not a revolutionary release, this looks like a very successful launch," said Chris Swenson, an analyst at The NPD Group. "In fact, in many respects, Apple is undercounting licenses, since it counts a family pack as only one sale."

Family Pack, which sells for US$199, is a five-license edition that can be used to upgrade multiple machines in the same household. A single-license version lists for $129.

According to Apple, the 2 million mark -- which includes sales at its retail stores, resellers and online, as well as copies served under maintenance agreements and those bundled with new Macs -- "far outpaces" the first weekend's sales of Tiger, the previous edition of Mac OS X, which it launched in April 2005.

"It looks like Apple is definitely ahead of Tiger," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. Last week, Gottheil was one of several Wall Street observers who pegged the "bounce" Apple will get in its current quarter from Leopard sales; he put the number at US$157 million. Every analyst projected bigger numbers for the new operating system than for Tiger, if only because of the market share gains Apple has made in the intervening two and a half years.

From all appearances, his estimate was too conservative, Gottheil said today. "I'm surprised. I had no expectation that [sales] would be this rapid," he said. "If it's possible, users are even more devoted to Apple than when Tiger came out."

Gottheil attributed some of the larger-than-anticipated uptake to Time Machine, the automated backup and restore application integrated with Leopard. "Taking people off that tightrope [of not having a backup] is very nice," he said.

In a statement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said: "Early indications are that Leopard will be a huge hit with customers. Leopard's innovative features are getting great reviews and making more people than ever think about switching to the Mac."

Not everyone has given Mac OX 10.5 a passing grade, at least not as an upgrade to earlier editions. Over the weekend, large numbers of users reported problems, including "blue screens of death" that stymied the upgrade's final stages. Some of the blue screening was traced to older versions of APE, an application enhancer used by "haxies," or customizers, to tweak the Macintosh's interface and software.

Although operating system rival Microsoft Corp. did not announce sales figures for the first weekend of Windows Vista's availability -- Vista shipped on a Monday, while Leopard launched on a Friday -- the company claimed that it had sold 20 million in the first month.

Leopard would have to maintain the weekend's pace for a month to match Vista's numbers.

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