Apple will ship its new Mac OS X version, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, on Friday, Aug. 28, the company's Web site confirmed today. Speculation has run rampant in the last week about the Aug. 28 date, given leaks at Apple's and Amazon.com U.K.'s Web-based stores. Apple formally unveiled Snow Leopard at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June but gave only a vague release schedule of "September."
Mac OS X Snow Leopard costs $29 for users of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and $169 for users of previous versions of the Mac OS (the media-editing suite iLife '09 and the office productivity suite iWork '09 are included in the $169 upgrade). It is available for preorder from Apple's Web site, as well as at other online retailers. A server version is also available for $499. People who bought a Mac on or after June 8, 2009, can upgrade to Snow Leopard for $10 directly from Apple.
[ Get all the details on the new Mac OS X features in InfoWorld's "What's new in Mac OS X Snow Leopard" slideshow trio: new features for all users, new features for office users, and new features for power users. | Follow InfoWorld's ongoing coverage of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. ]
Snow Leopard is the first Mac OS X version to run only on Macs that use Intel CPUs, though it continues to run software designed for the PowerPC chip on Intel-based Macs if the Rosetta component is installed; Rosetta comes with Mac OS X. Mac OS X Snow Leopard also drops support for the AppleTalk networking protocol that Apple pioneered in the 1980s; AppleTalk brought the first wide use of LANs to PCs in its era. Apple migrated its OS to TCP/IP a decade ago and has reduced AppleTalk support steadily in the five interrvening versions of Mac OS X.
The new Mac OS includes native support for Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, which lets Apple's included e-mail, calendar, and contacts software work directly with Microsoft Exchange 2007 servers, which are commonly used in business environments. The new Mac OS has dozens of other enhancements and changes, though the basic user interface and functionality remains very similar to that of Mac OS X Leopard.
The biggest changes in Snow Leopard, Apple says, are under the hood: a move to 64-bit processing for greater memory support, the implementation of two multiprocessing technologies (Grand Central Dispatch and OpenCL) so rewritten software applications can take better advantage of multicore processors and graphics coprocessors for faster performance, and revamped QuickTime video processing and Java processing engines. (Java is commonly used to provide browser-based applications.)
The next version of Windows from Apple's rival Microsoft, Windows 7, is due on Oct. 22.