I’ve been reading this or that about Apple’s next operating system for the Mac, Leopard, over the past few days. This is largely because Apple just announced the release date, later this month, and also because it’s been uncharacteristically long since the last system software update.

Much of the discussion has offhandedly dismissed this version as “not a big deal” and “less than the usual.” I think the nay-sayers will be surprised. I’ll tell you what: I think that Time Machine feature will be worth the upgrade price alone. I think it’s that good, particularly after reading AppleInsider’s excellent overview of its details and technology.

But it’s true, in a way. There’s not much in the way of killer features or big new additions, beyond that. And it has been a while since the last upgrade. So why do I think this version is so great? It’s mostly in the details, and the way everything works so much better together.

Over the past decade, especially the last few years, Apple has shown a great willingness to focus on improving the technology, even at the expense of confusing some customers or the market. Their transition of all their computers to a new Operating System (OS X), a new central processor (Intel’s), and releasing products that “cannibalize” their own sales to stay ahead come to mind.

Leopard is Apple’s OS X release intended to strengthen their footing. They’ve been gaining market share, even while offering computers with a much older operating system than their competition (Microsoft’s Windows Vista). Obviously, if the new OS release doesn’t blow people’s minds (and nobody really expects it to), no big deal.

If this new version gives Apple a far stronger technological foundation for moving forward, however… well, I think we’ve got a strategy here.