Apple confirms Snow Leopard as next Mac OS X

It will ship in a year or so, says Apple after touting the upgrade to developers

Apple Inc. announced yesterday that it is working on a new version of its Mac OS X dubbed "Snow Leopard." However, contrary to rumors last week that predicted an early 2009 release, Apple said the update would ship in about a year.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which opened Monday in San Francisco, Apple shared its plans with developers during an event that the press was barred from. Later in the day, however, Apple released a statement and populated its site with some information about the operating system upgrade.

Bertrand Serlet, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, confirmed the leaked reports last week that the company would focus on stability and performance improvements in Mac OS X, rather than add more to the operating system. "In our continued effort to deliver the best user experience, we hit the pause button on new features to focus on perfecting the world's most advanced operating system," Serlet said in a statement.

The upgrade, Apple said elsewhere, will be called Snow Leopard -- clearly a play off Mac OS X 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard -- and will ship "in about a year." Apple did not give the operating system a numerical moniker, as in "10.6," which is what sources last week said it would carry.

Scenes from Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference outside the Moscone Center in San Francisco

Scenes from Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference outside the Moscone Center in San Francisco

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Snow Leopard will be optimized for multicore processors, Apple said, and it will support OpenCL (Open Computing Language) -- which is based on the C programming language -- so that developers can "steal" computing power from the graphics processor and apply it to general, nongraphics tasks.

The operating system upgrade will also boost the limit on addressable memory to a theoretical top-end of 16TB, introduce QuickTime X -- a major update of Apple's media player that the vendor said is based on technology first applied to the iPhone -- and turbocharge the Safari browser by adding the current fastest implementation of JavaScript.

Snow Leopard, Apple promised, will also be smaller. "[It] dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X, making it even more efficient for users, and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos," the company said on its site.

On the enterprise side -- a market that Apple has been paying more attention to of late with its iPhone corporate emphasis -- Snow Leopard will include built-in support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 in Apple's own Mail, iCal and Address Book applications.

Apple, however, said nothing to confirm or deny the pre-WWDC talk that Snow Leopard would work only on Intel-based Macs. The references to multicore processors suggest that it might be Intel-only, however, since most of the older Macs running PowerPC processors used single-core processors.

Only late in its PowerPC run, and then only in the top-end desktop Power Mac G5 refresh of October 2005, did the company ship PowerPC systems with dual-core CPUs.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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