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Summary:

Just about as far back as I can remember, every new release of an operating system has brought new features, additional functionality, and, unfortunately, more bloat. This applies equally for OS X and Windows, and in recent years has become even more prominent. Windows XP was […]

Snow Leopard

Just about as far back as I can remember, every new release of an operating system has brought new features, additional functionality, and, unfortunately, more bloat. This applies equally for OS X and Windows, and in recent years has become even more prominent.

Windows XP was bigger than both NT or 98, Vista was far bigger than XP, and Windows 7 is shaping up to be bigger still than Vista. Panther included 150 additional features, Tiger brought more than 200, and Leopard brought north of 300, as well as a visual refresh and more dependence on the 3D interface. We can see a steady trend of increasing size and complexity for operating systems.

But while Microsoft is continuing that trend with Windows 7, Apple has opted to do something different. The company has taken a step back and started building a platform that is going to carry their operating system for the next 5-10 years. Snow Leopard includes “no new features.” Apple has decidedly spent the past year refining Leopard, stripping out old code, and building frameworks for developers to take advantage of the multicore, multiprocessor machines that it’s building.

But let’s be clear: To say that Snow Leopard includes absolutely no new features is kind of misleading. Snow Leopard does include new features, including some tweaks to the Dock and Exposé, a new Finder, and exchange support for iCal, Mail and Address Book.

That’s all well and good, but the real new features, the ones that matter, are all for developers. 64bit support, Grand Central Dispatch (GCD), and OpenCL will make applications developed for Snow Leopard faster, and able to take advantage of the power and capabilities of the new machines. Enabling 64-bit applications means that apps can now address more than 4GB of RAM (theoretically up to 16 billion gigabytes). The new GCD frameworks make it easier for developers to write code that executes on all of the available CPU cores simultaneously. OpenCL enables developers to tap the unused power of the graphics cards to speed up their applications even more. Snow Leopard is more than an OS, it’s a platform built for developers.

And yes, Apple is dropping support for PowerPC. I’m assuming that stripping out the Rosetta code and the PowerPC code from universal binaries is one of the ways Apple has saved so much disk space in Snow Leopard when compared to Leopard. Although, as awesome technologies go, Rosetta certainly ranked high.

To get Snow Leopard to as many Macs as possible, Apple is going to try very hard to push how much faster all the built-in applications run. However, the real benefit from Snow Leopard might not be seen until the developers catch up. Large, professional applications like Apple’s own Final Cut Pro and Adobe’s Photoshop might see the biggest benefit from taking advantage of the new technologies.

What Apple has done is shift away from adding more and more code and features into OS X, and instead concentrate on making what’s in Leopard lighter, faster, and stronger. It’s the right thing to do. Snow Leopard might be a hard sell at first, which I’m assuming is why it’s competitively priced at $29, but roughly a year after it comes out, when more developers have had a chance to build on it, I believe we are going to see a line drawn in the sand. There will be the apps before Snow Leopard, and then there will be everything that comes after it. Leopard is a transitional OS, the prequel, and Snow Leopard is the main event.

  1. This is why Apple pisses me off.

    The move to Intel was great but Leopard or maybe it was Tiger that first supported Intel Macs was TWICE AS LARGE of an installation.

    I think it was around 6 Gbs or used space by Mac OS X and when I upgrade to the Intel compatible OS, it bumped to 12 Gigabytes of an install.

    Apple ditched PowerPC support and all of the sudden it’s half the size. of course! Apple didn’t magically make things slimmer, they took out all of the old code to support older Macs.

    I recommend every Mac user buy a copy of Xslimmer. After you install all of your apps, run it and watch 50% of the application folder size go away. It’s amazing and it was then that I realized this was the case for the whole OS and I wished Apple had developed and released different versions of The OS depending on what kind of Mac you had.

    In my opinion, Leopard has always been an orphan child due to the fact it’s supporting all kinds of hardware dating back to the 800Mhz PowerMac G4.

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  2. Wait … they’re dropping Rosetta, too? Are you sure? I know Snow Leopard’s all Intel-only but I assumed Rosetta’s emulation was gonna stay.

    Are you sure about this?

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    1. As of yet, we don’t know officially. (Apple hasn’t said either way yet, as far as I know.) Personally I would expect Rosetta to still be in Snow Leopard. This move is about moving the finder to Cocoa instead of Carbon, and dropping support for legacy hardware. I would assume Rosetta would still be included…

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    2. Oh shit!
      If that’s true. My MBP is outdated.

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    3. That sounds like a logical step. Apple did away with classic in Leopard, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rosetta axed. Although this is certainly not the development I like to see.

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  3. They better leave Rosetta in, I’ve got a number of PowerPC-only apps that I’m not done with yet, like Fallout 2! ;-)

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    1. Rosetta is still there an does work just fine. It’s an optional install but if you forget to install it the first time you try to start a PowerPC app the OS will ask you if you want to download and install it. It’s quite simple and straight forward. It is also included on the install disk.

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  4. I think the ability to run PowerPC apps is still going to be there. What I’m thinking is that the Apple included apps are going to be Intel only.

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  5. It’s the first I’ve heard of Apple stripping out Rosetta. Personally I doubt it as there will be many, like me, who still have some PPC applications. It would be helpful if the author to clarify where that information came from.

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    1. I expect Rosetta to be included in Snow Leopard, but of course we don’t know either way. The point I was making is that by stripping out the universal binary code out of the bulk of the operating system, Apple is saving a lot of disk space.

      I was referring to the universal binary code as “Rosetta code”.

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  6. Milk the Macintosh Thursday, June 18, 2009

    “PowerPC code from universal binaries is one of the ways Apple has saved so much disk space”

    You are kidding, right? PowerPC binaries are smaller than x86-binaries, dude!

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  7. It is my understanding that Snow Leopard will still be able to execute PowerPC applications via Rosetta. Snow Leopard simply won’t install or boot on PowerPC-based Macs.

    Apple is using other technologies in order to make the OS use less disk space (such as filesystem compression).

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  8. I just recently started working with a Power Mac G4 with Dual 1ghz procs in it. I really wish Apple would rethink what they are doing, unless that means I can install snow leopard on my custom setup with MSI SLI motherboard sporting AMD64x2 3800+, in which case I would probably ditch Vista and 7 for it.

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    1. I doubt they’d allow a simple installation for custom computers, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to install it with a little work. You’d just have to find the kexts/drivers that meet the criteria for your computer, right? I was able to get my versions of Leopard 10.5 to work on my PC’s. I don’t think 10.6 should be too much more difficult.

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  9. lol, way to sound epic…

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  10. Don’t forget to mention QuickTime X, an important rebuild of QT, aka road pizza;

    Innovative Technologies
    Each and every new version of QuickTime has included breakthrough technologies that have pushed the digital media industry forward. QuickTime 1 pioneered the digital media industry by playing back digital video smoothly on a personal computer for the first time via the video compression format “Road Pizza.” QuickTime 6 led the way for ISO-compliant MPEG-4, 3GPP and 3GPP2. And now QuickTime 7 with H.264 video once again leads the industry.

    http://www.apple.com/quicktime/technologies/

    http://www.apple.com/macosx/technology/#quicktimex

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