Apple Snow Leopard hits UK in September

Apple’s Snow Leopard will give Microsoft a chill with Apple claiming that it is faster than their Windows 7 OS which won’t launch until a month later. Anyone purchasing a new Mac between June 8 and December 26, 2009 will be able to get Snow Leopard for a minimal upgrade price of around a tenner, with a bundle discount for those wanting to buy iLife 09 or iWork 09 at the same time.

The reason for the dramatically low price is that Apple is promoting Snow Leopard as an "upgrade" for existing 10.5 Leopard users, but it is technologically much more.

Apple’s approach is probably explained by the fact that Snow Leopard doesn’t contain a consumer headline-grabbing new feature such as Time Machine, Boot Camp, or even Quick Look.

Instead, most of the exciting developments of Snow Leopard are stuck “under the hood”, hidden away from the admiring glances of Mac fans, like the rewriting of nearly all system applications in 64-bit code and by enabling the Mac to address massive amounts of memory. Snow Leopard makes the Mac OS X faster, more secure and future-proof.

Practically, this 64-bit development means that Finder, Safari, Mail, iCal and iChat are now 64-bit native, (actually all system apps except DVD Player, Front Row, Grapher, iTunes and X11 have been rewritten in 64-bit), boosting performance and enabling them to use all the memory available in your Mac. All aspects of using your Mac will feel faster and more responsive. It also means that Snow Leopard can support up to 16 terabytes of RAM, approximately 500 times more than current Macs can address. Although Macs already benefit from having very little malware in their world, Snow Leopard means even greater security because 64-bit applications can use more advanced security techniques to defeat malware and hackers.

Grand Central Dispatch is a new technology to help make your Mac faster by making all of Mac OS X “multi core aware” and optimising its ability to allocate tasks across multiple cores and processors. This means efficient handling of tasks out of sight but with visible performance gains all over your Mac.

Snow Leopard’s OpenCL technology means that programs will be able to use the vast power locked up in your graphics processor for other general computing tasks or applications, unrelated to graphics! Consequently your Mac will gain an extra processor capable of trillions of calculations per second – now you’ll be able to justify paying the extra for that top of the range GPU your new Mac (that also just happens to be great for playing games).

Snow Leopard brings with it QuickTime X which includes a brand new player application with support for a much wider range of codec’s (needed to play different types of media file) and it fully utilises the media technologies at the heart of Mac OS X, Core Audio, Core Video and Core Animation, to produce greater efficiency and higher quality playback. QuickTime X also uses Mac OS X technologies such as Cocoa, Grand Central Dispatch and 64-bit computing.

QuickTime X supports HTTP live streaming, the same network technology that powers the web. Therefore, QuickTime X streams audio and video using any web server instead of a special streaming server and it works reliably with common firewall and wireless router settings.

Apple says, “HTTP live streaming is designed for mobility and can dynamically adjust movie playback quality to match the available speed of wired or wireless networks, perfect whether the video is watched on a computer or on a mobile device like iPhone or iPod touch”.

The final significant feature is Snow Leopard’s built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 - just add your email address and password and the rest happens automatically! What does this mean to the Mac user who doesn’t see the benefit? You’ll be able to use Mac apps like Address Book, iCal, Spotlight, Quick Look and Mail instead of Outlook in Windows to access email, calendar invites and Global Address Lists and the other joys of working for Windows-centric employers.

So, although less flashy than some of its recent predecessors most of Snow Leopard’s benefits will be dramatically evident to end-users as soon as they begin to use their Mac – this is one very fast cat that will easily give Windows 7 a run for its money.