What's in the Next Mac OS X: Snow Leopard?

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The current shipping version of Mac OS X is dubbed Leopard. At the recent Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, Steve Jobs announced the next version, which is named Snow Leopard. Doesn’t sound like much difference on the surface, does it?

It’s going to be an upgrade, certainly. They’re telling us there won’t be so many “in your face” new features, as there were with Leopard. Apple is claiming the new version will ship within a year. They’re saying it’s going to be an incremental upgrade. This is going to be full of tweaks as far as performance, security and stability go. Snow Leopard will purportedly be able to support Terabytes upon Terabytes of memory. They plan to make it fully compatible with 64-bit. It will also be optimized for multi-core systems.

In a roundabout way, Apple is telling us that the new operating system will make your current hardware run faster and better. Well, it will if your system is 64-bit capable, and on the Intel platform. It will be interesting to see the speed differences. I think Snow Leopard is going to be all about speed and performance overall. According to Apple themselves:

Taking a break from adding new features, Snow Leopard — scheduled to ship in about a year — builds on Leopard’s enormous innovations by delivering a new generation of core software technologies that will streamline Mac OS X, enhance its performance, and set new standards for quality. Snow Leopard 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.

They are planning to push something called “OpenCL”. To quote them again:

Another powerful Snow Leopard technology, OpenCL (Open Computing Language), makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit (GPU). With GPUs approaching processing speeds of a trillion operations per second, they’re capable of considerably more than just drawing pictures. OpenCL takes that power and redirects it for general-purpose computing.

I think what they’re saying is that you’re going to have the ability, with optimized software, to take better advantage of your hardware. Your GPU will potentially be turned into basically another CPU. They’re going to redirect the GPU, and make it do more for you. That’s fantastic!

Another thing worth mentioning for those of you, like me, who are using Microsoft Exchange Server, Snow Leopard will provide out-of-the-box support. This will be built into Mail, Address Book and iCal.

Snow Leopard is all about taking what you have, and making it one heck of a lot better. I’d take boosted performance and speed over a bunch of new features any day.

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