Apple’s Snow Leopard. What’s the point?

On June 9th, you likely remember the amazing day at WWDC 2008 where the iPhone 3G was announced. Buried in the cheering of the announcement was the less acclaimed announcement of Apple’s latest OS Snow Leopard. Just the name can tell you that this will not be a ground breaking OS, like all of its kitty predecessors.

Snow Leopards are just a different kind of Leopard, so it is safe to assume that the OS will be pretty similar to what we have with Leopard.

That brings me to a lot of the statements that I have been hearing on pod casts, and in blogs.

“Why should I upgrade to Snow Leopard, if there isn’t a bunch of new features? ”

So here is why, beyond the obvious that Steve Jobs needs more money, and you have an obligation to give it to him. ;)

• First, Snow Leopard is officially being billed as a Security and Stability upgrade. For years, Mac users have felt safe from the virus, and hacker attacks that plague windows users. Many, myself included, don’t even bother to run virus applications, and will click any website without fear. However, we have all only really been safe because of the small market share that Apple has been able to garner. Those days are ending. As the market share increases and more and more people begin to favor the mac, virus writers, and hackers will begin to explore a fairly new and uncharted land and will begin to attack macs as well. I believe that Apple is preparing for this with the next version of Snow Leopard. This alone, is reason enough to upgrade. The less up-to-date you are the less secure you are.

• Second, Snow Leopard is ditching its support for PowerPC. For all the PowerPC users out there, myself included, that kind of sucks, and we will be left on Leopard for the time being. However, for the Intel users, myself included, this means a sleeker more streamlined OS. One that focuses solely on a single architecture. This means a dramatically smaller OS.

- On that same line of thinking, the apps are getting smaller as well. Take a look at this chart from [ AppleInsider ]. This comes from a great article that describes in detail why the apps are shrinking. Read it.

• Lastly, we have to ask if the ceiling on features has been hit. For now, probably. We have seen that with Windows for years, but yet the throngs flock to each new version of Windows. So, will a feature lacking upgrade from Apple spurn the same response? It should, since the main feature being released is usability and efficiency.

I will upgrade, and will recommend to my clients that they upgrade as well. So I guess I am also recommending to my readers to upgrade, and to answer the initial question on what’s the point?

Three words : Efficiency, Security, Stability .

39 Responses to “Apple’s Snow Leopard. What’s the point?”

  1. I’m sure it’ll be well worth upgrading.

  2. Viswakarma says:

    It is quite possible that there might be quite a few features in work that are still immature to make a big deal by Apple at this time. Most probably all these will be announced at Macworld 2009.

    It is always a good policy to under-promise and over-deliver!!!

  3. Hm, sounds like you haven’t checked Apple’s website:

    As the website points out, Snow Leopard is focused on several key areas:

    * Building support for Microsoft Exchange into Mail, Address Book and iCal

    * Improving multiprocessor performance with a set of technologies Apple has dubbed ‘Grand Central’

    * Full 64-bit support, addressing up to 16TB of RAM

    * Quicktime X, featuring performance improvements and other unnamed improvements

    * A much faster Javascript implementation for WebKit

    * And OpenCL, which will allow developers to take advantage of video card processors in addition to CPUs for compute-intensive applications

    Other than the Exchange support, the common thread in all this is performance. This is an ambitious set of improvements requiring some fundamental changes in the core OS, and it makes sense for Apple to want to limit the scope of the release to minimize risk. I suspect that accounts for the “No new features” posturing.

    (Of course, there will be new features — in fact all the items mentioned above *are* new features — but most of them won’t be all that visible to end users, so Apple wants to keep their expectations down.)

  4. sunny beach says:

    Plus the other features listed on

  5. Stephen says:


    I am not sure how to read your comment, and perhaps you missed the tone of my post. I am not putting Apple down for the release of Snow Leopard, or trying to minimize its importance. Much to the contrary. I am aware of the things you speak of, and most fall under efficiency and stability.

    My point was, that while users will not see the staggering list of new features that they have in past upgrades, they should not feel that this is a less important release.

    I hope that clarifies my position.

    Thanks for commenting. :)

  6. Hi Stephen,

    Just to clarify, I agreed with your conclusion but thought your post was largely silent on what seemed to me (and apparently to Apple, from reading their Snow Leopard page) to be key technologies.

    When I look at the release as a whole I get the feeling that it’s largely addressing the needs of Enterprise customers, which is really pretty interesting when you think about it in terms of Apple’s larger strategy. Of course that’s just my take on it, but there’s no denying the degree to which Apple is touting across-the-board support for Microsoft Exchange in Snow Leopard, and that’s a real departure from their long-standing, exclusively consumer-oriented focus. I think it’s going to be really interesting to see how this thing plays out.

    Just my $.02 of course.

  7. Stephen says:

    Absolutely … I agree 100%. Apple venture into enterprise technologies is even more apparent when you look at the iPhone 3G, which promises to match and surpass the blackberry ..

    Snow Leopard is one more step in a road that leads to corporate acceptance of Mac products.

  8. Thomas says:

    That myth about the shrinking app sizes has been debunked a while ago… mostly missing localization and designable.nib files…

  9. The under the hood upgrade is a good idea but I sure would like to see the UI cleaned up also and see some of the sleekness of the iPhone interface and touch screen implemented (see new HP iMac rival coming).

  10. Al says:

    I don’t buy that security through obscurity myth.

    However, if it is true, wouldn’t those of us using Panther or Tiger be even more protected, if we didn’t upgrade, as the target switches to Leopard and Snow Leopard?

    Seems to me the PPC Mac users would be well protected as also.

    Trojans require social engineering. Only an IQ upgrade will help you there.

    So far there are no self replicating viruses for Mac OS X. Until one turns up in the wild, there is still no need for anti-virus software.

  11. Stephen says:

    I would definitely agree that PowerPC users will remain in a higher degree of security (especially with Apple going away from PowerPC) since evil ones will focus on where there are more targets.

  12. I am a Windows user, so I’m a little ignorant of this kind of thing, but I was thinking about getting a Mac. So let me get this straight… you have to *pay* for an update like this? Or no?

  13. Jules says:

    I’m not sure about the software but object to the assertion that a Snow Leopard is just another type of Leopard. The Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) is classified in a different genus to the Leopard (Panthera pardus), as they have divurgent appearance, behaviour and physiology, and have no overlap in range. As an illustration of this difference, unlike all big cats (Panthera genus) the Snow Leopard cannot roar.

    Logically, this software should have less in common with OS-X Leopard than Leopard does with Panther/Tiger and the rest. It might have been better termed Bengal Tiger. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t consult with me before naming its operating systems. Shame.

  14. Ben says:

    Anderson, Snow Leopard is basically a new version of Mac OS X. The only reason it is still called OS X is because, unlike Mac OS 1-9, it runs on top of a Unix-based kernel called Darwin. The difference between Leopard and Snow Leopard is roughly the same as the difference between Windows Vista and Windows 7. Apple does have minor version updates (Leopard is up to 10.5.5 now) that are equivalent to Windows Service Packs and those are free.

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  16. Pay says:

    im also a windows user planning to get a mac. Pay for an update, like, updating from vista to vista sp1, i will have to pay?

  17. nathannecro says:

    The analogy I see people making is that Snow Leopard and Leopard (10.5 to 10.6) is “like” the upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. That is completely false. Snow Leopard brings no tangible changes to the user (aka GUI). All of the change happens “under the hood” in the form of security and application downsizing. Windows 7 however brings both “under the hood” development and new ways to interact with one’s computer. This appears in the form of a new taskbar (the superbar), differently packaged applications (the removal of many built-in applications to make the build lighter), introducing libraries for easier networked sharing, etc. Snow Leopard does not change anything whatsoever aside from some very slight performance upgrades. I fail to see the point of upgrading.

  18. Amanda says:

    To answer the questions of those who are thinking of switching to Macs, if you haven’t boughten a Mac yet and plan to do so in the not-too-distant future, your mac will either come with Snow Leopard pre-installed (if you are buying it new), or you will essentially be put on a list and be able to buy the upgrade later for about $25.

    As for the differences between leopard and snow leopard, after upgrading, I have found the ability to have a greater number of programs open without slowing any of them down immensely helpful.

    There are also a few aesthetic differences, and minor changes to what you can do with your OS, but they seem relatively minor.

  19. lampros says:

    Amanda, “how long is the not-too-distant future” with macbook pros being pre-installed with SL, because i’m getting my first mac in one week for college.

  20. Matt says:

    Dude has no idea!!

  21. Matt says:

    Its about process architecture…

  22. Kent says:

    Leopard has been stable for me. Had lots of fun using it. SL may be cooler and advisable since it highlights security and system efficiency. We may not see it or we may consider kitty descriptions. All I can say is that, an update means an improvement, everybody needs improved tools to become improved themselves.

    Another thing, how about installed applications?. hopefully none will be affected and dependencies were considered by apple.

    Have fun computing geeks!

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  26. thomas says:

    why are they all named after cats? lol

  27. Peter Ward says:

    All mac kit comes with snow leopard, either as a separate disk, or preinstalled (Sept 09) Snow Leopard also solved a long standing problem I had with a networked printer (Windows machines on the same wireless network). Fundamentally fixes for this sort of thing should be 10.5 (Leopard) updates, you should not have to shell out dollars, pounds or yen – I have an older MacBook which only works when plugged in via USB and will stay that way til I open my wallet for 10.6. I am balanced on Apple vs Microsoft. This sort of thing from Apple is going to lose them friends. Its the same with paying for firmware updates to iPod touch – this verges on criminal – the device arguably is not fit for purpose without updating to the later firmware. Apple – you are beginning to really worry me!!!!!

  28. Michael says:

    I’ve heard there are some wildlife groups trying to get Apple to do more stuff with the actual S.L.’s lol. I don’t know- people are saying it’s good PR for Apple- they should jump on that.

  29. Sarah says:

    To Mike,
    I actualy heard something similar as well. I found a facebook page thats intrested in helping perserve snow leopards. It says the group is based in Tucson AZ. Heres a link to their facebook page.

    There realy pretty animals. Anyway I agree with it being a great PR opertunity for Apple.

  30. zingzoo says:

    “As the market share increases and more and more people begin to favor the mac, virus writers, and hackers will begin to explore a fairly new and uncharted land and will begin to attack macs as well.”

    Very true and totally idiotic catch 22, paradox… Some favor macs because they believe it is more secure, but the reason it’s more secure is mostly due to obscurity (of course). But they don’t realize this, so the popularity of mac grows. But as the popularity of mac grows, the probability of being hit also grows. So the very reason they were willing to fork over extra and buy it, slowly becomes a mute point as it gains main stream popularity. Thus diminishing it’s original purpose. But people won’t catch on for a long time, so it continues to sell. Man those people at apple sure have pulled a good one over every one. LOL. And it’s such a doozy that they don’t even know it. Instead they defend it. All I can say is so far this mac I am on has had safari crash 5 times today. Makes watching videos annoying. Chess crashes too. The os sits there ok, but built in apple software does crash, and it’s been more often than my windows machine by a lot. windows 7 hasn’t had one thing crash this week… Apple and MS are brands. Both very similar and both non-perfect.

  31. zingzoo says:

    ok, I meant moot point, lol.

  32. Ayla says:

    You have great information for all kinds of animals! I like your cheetah information and leopard pictures! Sincerly, Ayla Christina Mondry

  33. Joey says:

    To Mike,
    Hey mike! I’m a big apple user but couldn’t help but notice your blog and said hell why not. So I added you to face book. Snow Leopards are cool animals lol. It would be a good idea for apple to advertise with them!

  34. ALi says:

    Thanks a ton. I feel safe and secure with my new upgrade.

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  36. The Blackberry is the best gadget that i ever received as a gift from my best friend. It has nice features and the design looks very cool too.

  37. As a Newbie, I am continuously exploring online for articles that can aid me. Thank you

  38. Craig Gilson says:

    hi,really damn good apple,do you know where i can find that beautiful.thanks,Vox

  39. The Intelligent Shade Of Blue says:

    Taxonomically, the Snow Leopard is not a leopard….it’s in the subfamily Pantheridae, and its closest relative is actually the Siberian Tiger.

    Just saying.

    Other than that, good job, Apple.

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