Mac users left wondering if OS X Snow Leopard's retired

OS X 10.6 users have probably seen their last core OS patches, says researcher

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"We're here speculating on whether Snow Leopard is supported or not," said Wisniewski. "It's like we're forced to read tea leaves. It's kind of unfortunate."

Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security, echoed that.

"That's the same old story with Apple," said Storms in an interview conducted over instant messaging. "It's never really clear when they discontinue support. While they have some data about lifecycle support, Apple fails at actually making any effort to tell people as much. They'd rather spend the time telling you all the cool stuff about the new OS."

Both Wisniewski and Storms contrasted Apple's practice with Microsoft, which describes Windows' support policy on its website, and generally patches the OS for a decade, no matter how many successors ship during that stretch.

Another Sophos researcher pointed out that the omission of a Safari update for Snow Leopard was another hint that OS X 10.6 faces retirement.

"And on [the Safari download] page, the fine print states: The latest version of Safari is available for Mountain Lion. The latest version of Safari for Lion is available through Software Update," observed Joshua Long in a Monday blog post. There's no mention of [Safari for] Windows or Snow Leopard."

Apple patched 121 vulnerabilities in Safari for Lion and Mountain Lion.

Snow Leopard's status is important to a lot of users: According to Web analytics company Net Application, 38% of all Macs were powered by that edition last month.

Wisniewski reminded Snow Leopard users that they can probably upgrade to Mountain Lion, which of course will receive security updates. And even in the absence of any future patches, their current OS will continue to work.

"But the best way to stop an attack is to patch the vulnerability," Wisniewski added.

Apple did not reply to questions about whether Snow Leopard will continue to receive security updates, and if so, for how long.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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