Snow Leopard brings subtle improvements to Mac

By John Bowman,

Apple's latest version of the Mac OS X operating system, code-named "Snow Leopard," was released today and the online reaction has been, well, staid.

The consensus seems to be that there's nothing wrong with it (except if you have a Palm OS-based smartphone or run one of a handful of programs Snow Leopard doesn't like), but its improvements are subtle. Other than support for Microsoft Exchange, allowing you to sync mail, appointments and address books, there aren't any new features to speak of.

Then again, it is only $35. (Or just $29 in the U.S. We're not as bad off as the Europeans, though, who'll pay 29 euros, or about $45 Cdn.)

Snow Leopard is also a leaner operating system, freeing up up to seven gigabytes of hard drive space and running faster than Leopard on the same hardware. But if you're on a PowerPC-based Mac, one sold before 2006, you won't be able to upgrade.

Here's a round-up of the reviews:

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Hopefully, Microsoft won't take after Apple and start charging for service packs.

Posted August 29, 2009 06:34 PM


There will be many calling Apple’s latest version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, little more than a service pack. From a distance, it can look that way: There’s no new eye candy mostly core technology stuff [Grand Central Dispatch, Open CL, 64-Bit, etc.], and even the ballyhooed addition of support for Microsoft Exchange (ironically, even Windows doesn’t come with it) is even sort of boring.

But the $35 upgrade is well worth it, and will reach into every corner of your Mac to speed things up. Surprisingly, Snow Leopard’s biggest improvements are to your hardware. Think of it as a tune-up for your machine. For instance, on my MacBook, Safari would run at around 25-35% of CPU, and spin up to around 100%+ under stress in 10.5 Leopard, right now, under 10.6, it’s not even showing up in the top five list, meaning it is idling at under 4%. This is with 12 tabs open.

The retail disc of Snow Leopard will install on a blank hard drive OR a drive with Tiger or Leopard, and won't complain about anything at all. There are absolutely no restrictions on that disk regarding what you need to have on your Mac before installing it. No serial number either. Apple continues to have faith in their faithful and trust that everyone will buy the proper package and install it in the proper number of Macs.

So to all those claiming Apple’s Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard "little more than a service pack" I say they are either paid-off, ignorant, and/or too lazy to do even basic fact-finding.

Posted August 31, 2009 05:58 PM



Greg, easy there. There is no reason to resort to name-calling. In fact, it is perfectly normal for service packs to improve performance. It is strange, though, that you advocate paying to upgrade your web browser, since all the other popular ones are free. As for the lack of SN requirement, it is the strangest definition of major OS upgrade I have seen.

Posted September 4, 2009 04:58 PM

Curious bystander


Apple only has itself to blame for people referring to Snow Leopard as a service pack. With all their previous upgrades, they made the interface easier to use and introduced new features. To use a car analogy, people got used to getting a new paint job, improved handling and something akin to a new GPS/stereo/proximity detector with every upgrade.

So when Apple effectively rebuilds the engine for better performance and reinforces the chassis for long-term durability, people just say "meh, it's a tune-up."

Posted September 8, 2009 10:35 AM

Gayleen Froese


I'm delighted to have so much hard drive space back--between my main computer and my external hard drives I've got over a TB, but 7GB still helps. I've also noticed some improvement in speed.

On the other hand, Snow Leopard refuses to play nicely with Thoth and has a strange (and very annoying) problem in which the cursor disappears at random.

I have two more computers on which I could install Snow Leopard under my family licence, but have not yet decided whether I will.

Posted September 8, 2009 10:55 AM



OS X has never required a serial number for installation (major upgrade or not), because Apple knows that if you're using their OS then you're spending big bucks for their hardware as well. That said, there are also a lot of benefits to having both hardware and software developed by the same company. That's very evident in the Mac's far superior usability and style over generic PCs.

Posted September 8, 2009 11:54 AM

Greg Midensky


Alexey, thanks for proving my points to be spot on. Unlike you I have actually USED Snow Leopard and installed it on a half dozen Mac's, despite your twisting my post to somehow imply that Snow Leopard is little more than a paid upgrade for a web browser, all this just proves that you know not of what you speak.

I'll let you choose whether you'd like to be in the paid-off, ignorant, and/or too lazy to do even basic fact-finding categories, you may choose to slot yourself in all three.

Posted September 8, 2009 01:00 PM


When you buy an Apple product don't forget to get fitted for your very own Apple straight-jacket! You can't download tunes from Media Monkey or any other third party software. Their MID's only allow you run app's that run on the O/S that you must run on their hardware. Yes, they are the easiest computers and devices for the technologically illiterate - but there is a big trade-off! You can only do what the paternalistic Apple corporation allows you to!

Posted September 8, 2009 02:16 PM

Greg Midensky


Snow Leopard is not as big an upgrade as past versions of Mac OS X – in fact at first glance it’s not that dissimilar to Leopard. But under the hood it’s been completely rewritten with a host of subtle, but powerful changes that vastly enhance user experience and productivity. Among the new technologies 64-bit support enables applications to access more RAM, so they run faster and more efficiently. Snow Leopard also support Open CL. Open CL utilizes the power in the computers graphics processor, so instead of just being uses for graphic intensive tasks, it’s idle power can also be allocated to every day tasks. The final technology, Grand Central Dispatch makes use of multiple cores simultaneously, so they run more efficiently. Snow Leopard is an essential upgrade for any Leopard user. It’s almost cheap for the increase in speed in everyday use – and perhaps more importantly for the potential for future improvement. And coming in a whopping 7GB lighter than Leopard, it will actually free up disc space. How many upgrades do that? A Service Pack? I think not.

Posted September 8, 2009 02:50 PM



William, your post is erroneous, false and full of FUD.

A Mac can run ANY OS natively, that includes Windows, and Unix/Linux etc. and is rated best in class in terms of hardware when compared to PC's, and they have Zero viruses, so what are these trade off you speak of? [crickets]

Posted September 8, 2009 03:07 PM



Wow, that's gotta be the worst review (or lack of) I've ever seen.

Posted September 9, 2009 02:03 PM



BTW: Daring Fireball's John Gruber noted yesterday that Apple has released libdispatch, the source code for the user space implementation of Grand Central Dispatch, taking a significant portion of the company's technology for more efficiently utilizing multicore processors open source. While some may consider the move a surprise due to the technology's key role in the core of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, MacResearch points out several reasons why the move may not be all that risky for Apple.

So why did they do it? Only Apple knows for sure, but there are compelling arguments for open sourcing Grand Central Dispatch, even for a commercial enterprise. First, Apple will of course reap the rewards of any development that takes place, just as they have with WebKit. Second, it is unlikely that Grand Central would be used by any direct competitor to Apple, like Microsoft. Grand Central is more likely to be added to other UNIX and Linux systems, none of which really pose a threat to Apple's consumer-based business.

Opening up Grand Central Dispatch for broader distribution into the UNIX community could ultimately serve to spark new innovations using the technology that could make their way back to the Mac platform. In addition, wider distribution of the technology could drive the adoption of other technologies such as blocks, the non-standard extension to the C programming language upon which Grand Central Dispatch is based.

Posted September 11, 2009 04:22 PM

Mitchell Cook


I believe that this latest version of OSX is Macs continuing efforts to force people to buy their newest Intel powered computers. My G5 runs Logic 8 beautifully on OSX 10.5 but that's the end of the road. If I want to upgrade to Logic 9, I'm forced to give Mac $3000 for a new tower and my old one is worthless as a trade-in. Forced Obsolescence!

Posted September 15, 2009 10:52 PM

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