Who will buy OS X ‘Snow Leopard’?

The next version of the OS X operating system10.6 “Snow Leopard” – was quietly announced at WWDC08 at the start of this week. Unlike previous versions, 10.6 will not focus on new features (though doubtless there’ll be a few here and there). Instead, Apple have decided to concentrate on making the OS leaner, meaner and all-round nicer. (Maybe this is how they came up with the name: It’s a slicker Leopard, but they’ve frozen the features. Feature freeze? Snow? Never mind…)

They’ll do this by:

  • Making it easier for developers to code apps for multi-core processors, using a technology called “Grand Central”
  • Introducing Open Computing Language (OpenCL), which lets applications use the Mac’s GPU (graphics processing unit) almost as an additional CPU
  • Increasing the RAM limit to 16 terabytes (16,000 GB) – a limit not likely to be reached anytime soon
  • Including QuickTime X, which will run all your latest codecs much more smoothly (so they say)
  • Making Safari run JavaScript “up to 53 percent faster” apparently – which will be good for all those AJAX-driven websites
  • Reducing the OS’s footprint (i.e. the hard drive space it takes up). This has caused a bit of controversy as many think this means dropping support for PowerPC Macs, but this remains to be seen. Maybe they’ll ship 2 versions: one for Intel, one for PowerPC?

One new feature they are announcing now is full support for Microsoft Exchange using the Exchange Web Services protocol. This will let Mail, Address Book and iCal play nicely with Exchange servers.

It’s a nice idea…

I think this is a smart move by Apple, at least from a technology point of view. All software gets bloated after a while, and stripping back cruft and refactoring code gives you a better platform on which to build in the future. This, combined with the better use of hardware thanks to Grand Central and OpenCL, means we’ll no doubt see all sorts of fantastic new features in future versions of OS X.

The timing’s right, too: Windows Vista is already out now, and it’s not likely that Microsoft will make any major improvements to Vista in the next couple of years.

…but who will buy it?

The million dollar (pun not intended) question is: Who will pay to upgrade? Traditionally, software upgrades ship with a ton of new features, and that’s what consumers are used to paying for. Naturally, new Macs will ship with 10.6, but will current Leopard users shell out another 100+ bucks to make their Mac that little bit faster?

Personally I would; in fact I’d welcome a faster Mac more than I would new features right now. It’s not that my iMac is hideously slow, but I do sometimes find myself waiting for an app to catch up with whatever task I’m doing. And it would be cheaper than buying a new Mac!

I can also see it appealing to laptop and iPhone users, if the improved efficiency results in longer battery life.

Of course, 100 bucks is just a guess. Maybe Apple will charge 50 bucks; maybe they’ll even let you upgrade for free! Time will tell. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when it’s launched in ’09.

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17 Responses to “Who will buy OS X ‘Snow Leopard’?”

  1. Gene Steinberg Says:

    And what if Snow Leopard, not being a feature-based upgrade, was simply a free download?


  2. Tonio Loewald Says:

    It’s going to be a free upgrade or a very cheap ($19) one. How do I know? Snow Leopard doesn’t have new graphic design vs. Leopard the way the major upgrades have had, and it’s called Snow LEOPARD not Ocelot or whatever.

  3. justme Says:

    I will def buy it, tho I doubt it will be free, I have a feeling it won’t be the usual $129 tho. Perhaps $69 for Leopard owners, and $99 for users of MacOS X 10.4 Intel that still haven’t upgraded to 10.5 at that point..

    I do think Apple will use this as the cut-off for PPC Macs.. Tho, now that they own PA Semi, perhaps they’ll find that the new PPC tech they now own is still worth maintaining some code for… Jobs did say that they “Like to have options…”

    I just hope QuickTime X finally give QuickTime VR users/authors some love… QTVR seems to have been left to languish the past few years.. it’s well past time for QTVR to get the TLC it needs.

  4. Mario Says:

    I’ll buy it. I’ve been reluctant to buy 10.5 for my first gen Intel iMac because the last two point updates have been enormous. I don’t want to upgrade my OS and then download another half gig of updates. I’d rather just buy the whole thing complete. If they were 50 MB updates, sure, I’d buy Leopard now. Meanwhile, Tiger runs just fine in my computer.

  5. eROCK Says:

    I will upgrade to 10.6 for sure. I’m still running Tiger because of all the problems with Leopard. Once they trim the fat and stablize the OS, I’ll make the upgrade.

  6. chmood Says:

    Let me turn it around: who *won’t* buy it?

    People who think that “new features” IS the reason to buy an upgrade won’t buy it, because they don’t value the steak – just the sizzle.

    Foolish point of view: the compelling – and eternal – reason to upgrade the OS (*any* OS) is improved functionality – fewer bugs, greater synergies and efficiencies, running cleaner, faster, more safely & reliably A more stable, more capable, better-supported platform.

    It will, IMO a full-price release, and I will certainly buy & install it.

  7. mathue Says:

    I will only buy it if it works with my G5s, none of them are anywhere close to retirement age.

  8. Gerald Says:

    Remember when 10.4 Intel was only with new hardware? I think 10.6 will do the same. No boxed retail version at first, and no mention when/if there will ever be one. (Apple doesn’t comment on unannounced products.)

    Imagine the uproar! Instead of people complaining about paying for a featureless upgrade, Apple will have the press/blogosphere begging to buy it.

    I can hear the digg comments now: “Apple is forcing me to torrent it!!” and “This is to put Psystar out of business!”

    Followed by: “Hahahaa! My Hackintosh can do what you sheeple Applehaeds cant! Let Steve Jobs bend you over again! LOLZ!”

    Then when it does come out (@ $129), slashdot will congratulate itself on making Apple bend.

    Meanwhile, Apple makes record profits seven years in a row.

  9. Christiaan Says:

    We will probably peg an upgrade of all our Quad Power G5s, to new Mac Pros, on Snow Leopard’s release.

  10. Christiaan Says:

    “Ours” being a architect’s firm.

  11. Matt Says:

    @Gerald: That would be a very cunning move indeed on Apple’s part!

  12. swede Says:

    what if apple just waits and sees? Charging for a upgrade of snowleopard (what we know today) could seem offencive yet Who knows what Vista version 2 will cost Or if vista ver.2 will be a service pack because MS has some goodwill to catch up with. Maybe apple do to. I want the feeling that my hardware performance is used as effectively as possible when i buy an OPERATING system… kind of why i bought it in the first place.

    Apple would create a buzz if snow leopard was free for new mac buyers and a downloadable upgrade from Itunes (updating Iphone is done through Itunes – hence why i say iTunes as possible fuure updating channel) or apple software update application for existing OSX users.

    For hackinhtoshes – A expensive DVD…which they will buy regardless and it will be on torrent with in the hour, but not all the wannabie hackintoshes wants the hassle of torrents.. they will simpply en up buying a mac and be done with it. it ‘s the total package deal and it’s sweet. Also, I’d like to see a free year of “mobile me” included at purchase, adding even more value to bying a mac.

  13. Dan Says:

    “Grand Central” is a huge deal. If they can make it easy for developers to write their programs can utilize multicore processors to their true potential the Mac will be the fastest platform on the planet. (I have an 8-core mac pro. You’d be amazed at how many programs can only utilize 1 or 2 cores. And it’s true on the windows side too.) Open CL may be a big deal too, for the same reasons.

  14. Roberto Says:

    What I do know is that I still prefer to use my old AMiga OS than modern OSs, because it is faster, customizable, enjoyable and smart.
    I heard that the future of the hardware is a “multi chip approach”, exactly like Amiga did many years ago (the innovative chipset was amazing). Even though modern computers are thousand times more powerful than my Amiga, I dont have the same feeling under the keyboard. It is the different b/w smart things and stupid things…
    I sent a bunch of emails to Jobs just to say that My AMiga was les powerfull than his iPod, but it was able to do incredible things, I hope he got my message…

  15. Matt Says:

    @Roberto: I was a member of the “rival camp” in the 80s in that I had an Atari ST! But I know what you mean about the Amiga. It was way ahead of its time.

  16. Danyal Says:

    “All the problems with Leopard”?!

    In six months of use, Leopard has never crashed for me. Not once!

    And neither have I never been knifed in London.

  17. Jake Says:

    Great, just last month I bought a brand-new iMac. Would be nice if they’d offer me a free upgrade but I guess Apple doesn’t differ much in this from Microsoft.