By Harry McCracken | Monday, August 24, 2009 at 9:20 am
Rumors that Apple might beat its self-imposed September deadline to ship its OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system were true: It’s now official that the upgrade will show up for sale this Friday, August 28th. The date is nowhere near as big a deal for Apple aficionados as October 22nd, Windows 7’s release date, will be for the Windows-using majority. But I’m still looking forward to trying Snow Leopard, and to hearing what Mac users think about it.
Unlike Windows 7, Snow Leopard has virtually nothing in the way of significant new features, with the exception for Exchange support in its Mail, iCal, and Address Book apps. Instead, Apple has done major renovation below the surface to make the OS faster, more powerful, and more robust–it’s rewritten various pieces of code to make them faster and added 64-bit versions of bundled applications, for instance. In theory, at least, it all makes Snow Leopard a noticeably more agile breed of cat than its predecessor. But it also makes the upgrade a more complicated proposition than typical new OSes with lots of new features. (OS X 10.5’s Time Machine, for instance, was a really tangible reason to get Leopard.)
Ultimately, if Snow Leopard feels strikingly quicker and more reliable than Leopard, it will be well worth the $29 upgrade price ($49 for five users). In my experience, Macs are less prone to problems than Windows machines, but they’re still far from bulletproof: They get bogged down, misbehave, and suffer crashes just as deadly as Blue Screens of Death. I kind of admire Apple for trying to sell an upgrade that’s mostly about making the OS do what it’s supposed to do more reliably, and wouldn’t object if the next version of Windows were something along the lines of, um, Windows Snow 7. (Windows 7, like Snow Leopard, is mostly about unglamorous-but-useful enhancements, but most of them are interface tweaks; under the hood, it’s not a massive overhaul of Vista.)
Looking over Apple’s list of Snow Leopard improvements, I see that one that it mentions at some length is remarkably mundane: Snow Leopard ejects optical discs more reliably than its predecessors. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to cajole CDs and DVDs to come out of Macs; if Snow Leopard removes that hassle it, would make my life meaningfully better in a way that Leopard’s flashier Spaces desktop manager, say, has not.
Let’s end this with today’s T-Poll: