What to Expect in Snow Leopard, the Next Release of Mac OS X

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The Next Mac Operating System

If you’ve been waiting for the promised improvements in Apple’s next version of Mac OS X, dubbed Snow Leopard, you won’t have to wait much longer. Or pay very much for the privilege.

Lots of details emerged about Snow Leopard in the keynote to this year’s WWDC developer conference in San Francisco, including an approximate release date and the retail upgrade price. While Apple senior VP Phil Schiller delivered this year’s WWDC keynote, Bertrand Serlet delivered the info about Snow Leopard, letting us know that the new OS is finally just about ready, and it sounds like it’s going to be a powerful upgrade. The expected release date is sometime during the month of September, 2009 and the cost will be a very reasonable upgrade price of $29 (or $49 for a family pack).

System Enhancements

Much of the emphasis of Snow Leopard is on enhancements to existing Mac OS X technologies. Some of the major areas that are seeing improvements are the Finder, QuickTime, and overall system size and speed.

A core piece of the Mac OS X interface, the Finder, has been completely rewritten for Snow Leopard as a 64-bit native Cocoa application. The reported improvements in speed in the Finder will be welcome and are part of what will make Snow Leopard an even more responsive operating system.

QuickTime X has been updated for Snow Leopard to take advantage of 64-bit technology and Grand Central Dispatch (see below). The new improved media player will now support HD codecs like H.264 and http streaming.

People who have been using developer seeds of Snow Leopard all report that it’s extremely fast and responsive. Things like rewriting the Finder as a 64-bit Cocoa application will no doubt pay off in improved performance. The release version of Snow Leopard is expected to weigh in at several gigabytes less than the current Leopard operating system. That’s pretty impressive - when was the last time you heard of a new version of a computer operating system decreasing in size?

New Features

While the bulk of the improvements in Snow Leopard are reported to be enhancements to existing Mac OS X technologies, there are actually plenty of new features to get excited about as well. Some new things that you can expect to see in Snow Leopard are Microsoft Exchange support, Open CL, and Grand Central Dispatch.

System administrators and Microsoft Exchange users should be thrilled with the new integration of Exchange features directly into OS X. With Mail, iCal, and the Address Book all speaking the Exchange lingo now, integration of Macs into the workplace will be easier than ever.

Open CL is technology that will allow developers to take better use of the processing power built into modern graphics chipsets. Open CL promises to allow software to get even better performance out of your existing hardware.

Similarly, Grand Central Dispatch is new technology developed by Apple to allow developers to take better advantage of the multi-core CPUs that are becoming standard in today’s computers. By allowing better scheduling of the multiple CPUs and giving developers easy access Apple hopes to usher in a generation of software even more responsive and powerful that what we have today.

For More Information

For more information about Snow Leopard visit Apple’s Snow Leopard web site.

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