Snow Leopard Coming in Q1 2009

We knew we weren’t going to have to wait too long for Snow Leopard (10.6) to make its appearance on store shelves, but according to MacRumors, things just got a little more specific courtesy of a slide from a conference presentation.

Apple’s Director of Engineering for their Unix Tech branch, Jordan Hubbard, spoke at the Large Installation System Administration (LISA) conference last week, and his slide deck included the gem pictured here. His topic was the evolution of OS X from large servers to embedded platforms, which featured the release schedule pictured, with a fairly specific (compared to vague “one year” timelines talked about when Snow Leopard was announced at WDC 2008) Q1 2009 date of arrival.

If Snow Leopard does indeed arrive in the first quarter of next year, it will have beat the anticipated one year timeline by a considerable margin. Given that the upcoming version of OS X is primarily focused on delivering stability and performance improvements, rather than an extensive list of new features, it is quite possible that we could see it reach release in the first few months of 2009. Current Mac computers have a degree of untapped hardware potential that Snow Leopard will take full advantage of. A sped up timeline for the OS could then be an attempt to quell or distract from some very vocal early disappointments regarding Apple’s new notebooks, over things like the lack of FireWire on MacBooks, trackpad issues, and most recently, HDCP problems.

The earlier release might also be a direct response to Microsoft’s decision to aim for a 2009 release for Windows 7, which had previously been expected in 2010. Leopard’s release followed Vista’s by almost a year, which ended up in Apple netting a lot of dissatisfied Windows customers. This time around, Apple may be trying a different approach, trying to beat Windows 7 (essentially a Vista upgrade) out the gate with Snow Leopard (essentially a Leopard upgrade). It’ll work especially well to be first to market if Windows 7 disappoints, since it will give the impression that Cupertino can issue better improvements faster than their Redmond competitors.

Will you be first in line for Snow Leopard if it drops early next year, or do you plan on getting a little more mileage out of Leopard?

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