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Apple asks developers to rate latest Leopard pre-release

Having already delayed its next-generation Leopard operating system by several months, Mac maker Apple Inc. is now seeking feedback from its developer community on whether the quality of the latest pre-release builds is up to par with the shipping version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

In a somewhat unorthodox move, the Cupertino-based company this week began courting the developer feedback through an online survey that's also visible to the general public.

Specifically, Apple asks that developers compare their experiences using Mac OS X Leopard Build 9A499 and a shipping version of Mac OS X Tiger (10.4.x) in the areas of Mail & Web, Graphics & Media, Setup & Mobility, Desktop & Interface, Productivity & Communication, and Sharing & Devices.

For each category, the company identifies a half-dozen areas of user experience in Leopard —such as "Composing styled HTML mail messages" and "General stability and performance of Mail" —and asks that developers compare their experience in those areas to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger via a rating system that spans "Much worse" to "Much better."

The precise motive behind the move is unclear at this time, as Apple has said it plans to release Leopard in October. In keeping with that schedule, the company would have just a few remaining weeks to wrap up development before prepping the software for its release to manufacturing.

Leopard has come under considerable criticism from some Apple developers who've waged complaints about the stability and performance of the software during the tail-end of its development cycle. Build 9A499, which was released late last month, faired no better in the eyes of some developers who said their experience continued to be hampered by bugs.

Originally slated for June, Leopard's release was pushed back to October when Apple was forced to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from its Mac OS X team in order to make good on a promise to launch iPhone —which runs an embedded version of Leopard —by the end of June.