Spring finds me out of hibernation, with clear vision, a new mission, and power tools in hand.
My new mission is a sort of prime directive: To make my short list of technology that I use and recommend, hardware must be engineered to rise in value the longer I own it. I demand that equipment be scalable, expandable, interoperable, and open so that I don't have to wait for a vendor to improve it. With computers, I'm after five-year gear, meaning that I not only want equipment with a useful lifespan at least that long, but equipment that is made by vendors that make an outward commitment to protecting the continuous appreciation of my investment and have a track record that backs that up.
[ Apple's new Nehalem Xeon-based Mac Pro is the perfect workstation | AMD's six-core "Istanbul" Opteron processor is more than the sum of its cores. | What does Mac OS X Snow Leopard have in store? ]
Apple and AMD are two companies that fit that mold. Apple constantly improves its systems through software. New major releases of Mac OS X are as hotly anticipated as they are because each remakes the Mac in some substantial way. It's as if every Mac owner gets a new computer every couple of years. You have to own a Mac to understand the phenomenon, and you need to be a professional Mac owner to appreciate the bottom line benefit that installing Snow Leopard on an existing Mac will deliver.
But this time, another factor plays in. On a new Nehalem Mac (see review), Snow Leopard is no longer bound by Intel's broken, legacy PC bus. The speed of access to memory is tripled by Nehalem's on-board memory controllers, opening possibilities to Mac owners that have only been available to users of RISC and AMD Opteron to date. Snow Leopard will benefit all Mac users, but Snow Leopard on a Nehalem Mac paves the way for the software X factor upgrades.
Go Mac Go
What's a software X factor upgrade? That's when software alone delivers the sort of jaw-dropping spike in application performance or scale-up in capacity that you expect from buying a new computer. Nehalem Mac users will experience software X factor upgrades over the lifetime of their systems, and many of them will appear to take place inexplicably, overnight. What sets Mac apart from other platforms is that Apple supplies all of the software an application could require in the form of frameworks. Every upgrade to a Mac framework improves the lot of all running Mac applications without the need for recompiling.