Everything You Need to Know About Snow Leopard

Apple is giving Snow Leopard, the next version of OS X, a proper unveiling today at WWDC. Here are all the details, as we get them. The biggest news? It's only $29 to upgrade, and coming in September

Snow Leopard, otherwise known as OS X 10.6, was first announced at last year's WWDC, and we got a pretty comprehensive rundown of what to expect: serious 64-bit support; the ability to really use multi-core processors with Grand Central; GPGPU processing (that's graphics card processing, in English) with OpenCL; and more under-the-hood upgrades. There've been plenty of rumors since then, but here's the official word:




• Much of the codebase has been rewritten, for speed increases system-wide.

• Installation is 45% faster, which is considerate, I guess.

• General optimizations abound: opening JPEGs, for example, is now twice as fast in Preview. PDFs are 1.5x faster. Some of this could be down to the new 64-bit, multi-threaded underpinnings; mostly, though, it's just plain old software tweaking.


• Same goes for Mail: it's about twice as fast to launch, search and move messages.


• Installing Snow Leopard actually saves space: you'll get back 6GB of hard drive space over Leopard 10.5. Successive versions of OS X are usually faster, yeah, but much smaller? That's new.


• Javascript performance, which is basically the core issue in the browser wars nowadays, is up by 50%. Browsing as a whole is faster, and Safari 4 passes the Acid3 CSS test at 100%. It gets Coverflow (for history browsing), just like virtually every other part of OS X. "Fastest in the World", they say. In addition, Safari 4 now has "crash resistance", meaning Chrome-like threaded processes, so a single crashed tab doesn't take down the entire browser. More here.



• According to our own Mark Wilson, "it looks like it should look." That means seamless integration with Mail, Contacts and iCal. The implementation looks fairly complete, and most importantly, it's standard in Snow Leopard—not part of a separate app suite.



• QT gets a new interface, looks like the iTunes video player. Hardware acceleration for video playback, too. You can do some quick video editing as well, like in older versions of Quicktime Pro, except with an iMovie-style visual timeline. It's very pretty, and a welcome improvement of the ultra-limited editing powers of previous QTs. This, of course, is now standard. Oh right, and there' a new, vaguely menacing icon.



• It's a lot like regular Exposé, except it can be controlled from the dock, and offers more in the way of interactivity, i.e., dragging content between previewed windows. App grouping is now managed by from the dock icons. Nothing revolutionary, but it's nice to see tighter Exposé integration. I see little hints of Windows 7's awesome new taskbar, maybe?


• Sorta related, but not worthy of its own heading: you can magnify some icons in Finder, and preview video in thumbnails.



• 64 whole bits: All native OS X apps, like Mail, Quicktime, Finder, and Safari, are fully coded for 64-bit compatibility. This shouldn't have a massive effect on performance, but it's an inevitable progression, and a positive one. Previously.


• Multi-core support, i.e. Grand Central: We knew this was coming, but it bears repeating: the whole OS has been optimized to use all those fancy multi-core processors in your MacBooks and iMacs. This includes core apps. The API, which will allow developers to tap into Grand Central, which is essentially the software brain of the OS X multi-core engine, will expand support to third-party apps. Previously.

• GPGPU acceleration: Not much new here, but Snow Leopard will support GPU acceleration in non-graphics apps, when appropriate. Again, previously.



• Well, this is a hell of a surprise, but it fits with Apple's vision of Snow Leopard as a stopgap product: $29 to upgrade from Leopard, down from their regular $129 upgrade price. $49 for a family pack. It comes out in September, before Windows 7, and a developer preview is available from today. Anyone who buys a new Mac from June 8th can upgrade for a nominal $10 handling fee.


Apple Unveils Mac OS X Snow Leopard

SAN FRANCISCO, June 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Apple® today unveiled Mac OS® X Snow Leopard™, an even more powerful and refined version of the world's most advanced operating system and the foundation for future Mac® innovation. Snow Leopard builds on a decade of OS X innovation and success with hundreds of refinements, new core technologies, out of the box support for Microsoft Exchange and new accessibility features. Snow Leopard will ship as an upgrade for Mac OS X Leopard users in September 2009 for $29.

"We've built on the success of Leopard and created an even better experience for our users from installation to shutdown," said Bertrand Serlet, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering. "Apple engineers have made hundreds of improvements so with Snow Leopard your system is going to feel faster, more responsive and even more reliable than before."

To create Snow Leopard, Apple engineers focused on perfecting the world's most advanced operating system, refining 90 percent of the more than 1,000 projects in Mac OS X. Users will notice a more responsive Finder™; Mail that loads messages 85 percent faster and conducts searches up to 90 percent faster;* Time Machine® with up to 50 percent faster initial backup;* a Dock with Expose integration; a 64-bit version of Safari® 4 that boosts the performance of the Nitro JavaScript engine by up to 50 percent** and is resistant to crashes caused by plug-ins. Snow Leopard also includes an all new QuickTime® X, with a redesigned player that allows users to easily view, record, trim and share video to YouTube, MobileMe™ or iTunes®. Snow Leopard is half the size of the previous version and frees up to 6GB of drive space once installed.

For the first time, system applications including Finder, Mail, iCal®, iChat® and Safari are 64-bit and Snow Leopard's support for 64-bit processors makes use of large amounts of RAM, increases performance, and improves security while remaining compatible with 32-bit applications. Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) provides a revolutionary new way for software to take advantage of multicore processors. GCD is integrated throughout Snow Leopard, from new system-wide APIs to high-level frameworks and programming language extensions, improving responsiveness across the system. OpenCL, a C-based open standard, allows developers to tap the incredible power of the graphics processing unit for tasks that go beyond graphics.

Snow Leopard builds support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 right into Mac OS X Mail, Address Book and iCal so you can use these applications to send and receive email, create and respond to meeting invitations, and search and manage your contacts with global address lists. Exchange information works seamlessly within Snow Leopard so users can take advantage of OS X only features such as fast Spotlight™ searches and Quick Look previews. Snow Leopard is the only desktop operating system with out of the box support for Exchange 2007 and businesses of any size will find it easier to integrate Macs into their organization.

Every Mac includes innovative features and technologies for users with special needs, and Snow Leopard adds groundbreaking new features that make the Mac experience even more accessible to those with a vision impairment. Apple's Multi-Touch™ trackpad is now integrated with the VoiceOver screen reader so users can hear and navigate different parts of a window or the desktop by moving a single finger around the trackpad as if it were the screen. Snow Leopard also introduces built-in support for wireless bluetooth braille displays and the connection of multiple braille displays simultaneously to one Mac.

Pricing & Availability
Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard will be available as an upgrade to Mac OS X version 10.5 Leopard in September 2009 through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com), Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. The Snow Leopard single user license will be available for a suggested retail price of $29 (US) and the Snow Leopard Family Pack, a single household, five-user license, will be available for a suggested price of $49 (US). For Tiger® users with an Intel-based Mac, the Mac Box Set includes Mac OS X Snow Leopard, iLife® '09 and iWork® '09 and will be available for a suggested price of $169 (US) and a Family Pack is available for a suggested price of $229 (US).

The Mac OS X Snow Leopard Up-To-Date upgrade package is available to all customers who purchased a qualifying new Mac system from Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller between June 8, 2009 and the end of the program on December 26, 2009, for a product plus shipping and handling fee of $9.95 (US). Users must request their Up-To-Date upgrade within 90 days of purchase or by December 26, 2009, whichever comes first. For more information please visit www.apple.com/macosx/uptodate. Snow Leopard requires a minimum of 1GB of RAM and is designed to run on any Mac computer with an Intel processor. Full system requirements can be found at www.apple.com/macosx/techspecs.

*Testing conducted by Apple in May 2009 comparing prerelease Mac OS X Snow Leopard v10.6 with shipping Mac OS X Leopard v10.5.7 using shipping MacBook® 2.0 GHz systems with 2GB of RAM and NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (256MB) and shipping generation iMac® 2.66 GHz systems with 2GB of RAM and NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (256MB).

**Testing conducted by Apple in May 2009 comparing 64-bit Safari 4 to 32-bit Safari 4 on prerelease Mac OS X Snow Leopard v10.6. Performance will vary based on system configuration, network connection and other factors. All testing conducted on an iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo system running Mac OS X Snow Leopard, with 2GB of RAM. JavaScript benchmark based on the SunSpider JavaScript Performance test.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

© 2009 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, Mac OS, Macintosh, Snow Leopard, Finder, Time Machine, Safari, QuickTime, MobileMe, iTunes, iCal, iChat, Spotlight, Multi-Touch, Apple Store, Tiger, iLife, iWork, MacBook and iMac are trademarks of Apple. Other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.


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