After a year of hype, Snow Leopard is finally here. But does it have claws? Apple's newest Mac OS has been billed as an under-the-hood upgrade—a necessary evolution of the operating system. But it's a little light on new features that Mac users can touch, see and feel (except, of course, for the mouse that responds to multiple finger gestures).
One of the big upgrades to the OS is that it supports multi-core applications (applications that run fast because they leverage many processors) and lets developers take better advantage of graphics chips. Yet there aren't many applications today that can take advantage of this performance improvement.
"You may see some [multi-core] applications in a number of months," says Gartner analyst Michael Silver, "but more major applications, you're probably talking next year and beyond."
Also, if you have an old Mac, upgrading to Snow Leopard might mean having to buy a new Mac. That's because Snow Leopard is designed for Macs with Intel chips, not PowerPC chips. Apple switched to Intel chips three years ago.
So why get Snow Leopard now? Here are five reasons.
Reason #1: Killer Price
Apple's $29 price point for Snow Leopard, as opposed to the previous $129 price tag, might be the best "feature" in the new OS for end users. The cheap price is a shot across the bow of Microsoft, which is readying the release of Windows 7 this fall after the Vista debacle.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note: "Apple is promoting the Mac platform as a superior alternative to Windows in terms of newer technology, more frequently, for less money. The release of Snow Leopard is not about new features; rather, it is about keeping Mac users up to date with the latest technology vs. Windows XP and Vista users on antiquated technology."
Snow Leopard also runs more efficiently and is more compact than its predecessor, Leopard, thus freeing up 7 gigabytes of hard drive space. That alone may be worth $29.
Reason #2: Native Exchange Support
Snow Leopard's email, calendar and contacts apps support Exchange 2007. This improvement will likely inspire the most excitement among users because it will enable them to get company email without using Outlook or Entourage. Clearly, with this enhancement, Apple is making a statement that Macs can be more easily used in an enterprise.