IT Corral Shootout: Apple Snow Leopard

Foghorn T. Leghorn has always been one of my favorite cartoon characters, as much for his Down-South voice as well as for his pithy observations – “I say I say – I keep tellin you and you keep duckin” . I am tellin you there is going to be a Shootout of Major ComeFlagourNation in the IT industry . But so far “so what” is the consensus reaction.

So like Leghorn –  I will keep tellin you.

The latest pop shot is the announcement and delivery of Apple’s Snow Leopard update to the Mac OSX 10.6 operating system for $29 about 3 weeks earlier than expected. Microsoft is still on schedule for launch of $100++ Windows 7 on October 22nd. Now the Microsoft leaning pundits are describing Snow Leopard as “just an update, with no major feature changes”.  Apple begs to differ and cites the Vista weak points of slow speed, bloated  size, and pricey plus confusing Windows costs as being some of the reasons for the deep appeal  of Snow Leopard. Here is our take on the key features of Snow Leopard.
1)Leopard is full 64bit. This is one of the key factors in improving the speed of operation of MacOS. NYTimes David Pogue is reporting that  start up time falls from 100 seconds to 70  seconds and that program startups range from 7 seconds for iTunes to 3 seconds for the Safari browser. These times are cut in half if the program is restarted in a MacOSX session.  Now I know many Apple users that leave their Macs constantly running because a) the hibernate is fast and b)MacOSX does not “gunk up” with memory leaks and handles losses like Windows which benefits from a periodic [often daily reboot]. But others like  Infoworld saw a more mixed story on speed. The downside to going 64bit is that as of  posting availability of Snow leopard about  half of the major programs that run on a Mac cannot be certified   that they will run properly in Snow Leopard. the major Apple app programs do and ditto for Adobe CS3 and CS4 Suites of programs. But check here to verify that your favorite programs run on Snow Leopard.
2)Snow Leopard leaves PowerPC Macs behind. Users of older Power PC hardware are now LOST – stranded on the technology over drive beach. Echoes of Motorola Mac users from about a decade ago. I have not heard of any virtual machine vendor offering a bridge to Snow Leopard. This means the price of older Power PC Macs will surely decline evermore. Not good PR.
3)Quick Time Pro now has a much improved interface, does image and video screen captures, and is bundled for free with the Snow Leopard. For a media savvy system this is long overdue.
4)GCD-Grand Central Dispatch and Open CL which respectively take advantage of the multi-core processors used in all Apples [GCD]  and the enormous plus largely latent power of the GPU[Open CL - GPU=Graphics Processing Units,  like the NVidia 9400, now out perform the Intel Core CPU hardware  by almost an order of magnitude in raw speed and often have nearly equivalent amounts of devoted memory]. But these important improvements still have to be tapped by Apple and 3rd party developers. For example, MacWorld shows little or no improvement in Adobe’s  latest CS4 version of Photoshop on Snow Leopard. Nonetheless I suspect compute bound vendors like Adobe, Oracle, and Quark among others will certainly want to find ways to take advanatge of these performance goodies – and unlike on Windows, they can start right now.
5)Snow Leopard is smaller – it takes less time to load, uses less disk space and less runtime memory. This is a key message versus Windows bloat and slow.
6)Universal Access – Apple continues to pioneer in support of the blind or visually impaired. Now trackpad/touchpad gestures have sounding equivalents. In general, gestures and touch operations have been streamlined across all trackpad/touchpad devices. Rumors abound of Easter Egg hidden touch screen operations in Snow Leopard in anticipation of the Apple touch-based Tablet due at Septembers end.
7)Snow Leopard has Microsoft Exchange direct support. This is vital to business people where Exchange has about 60% of mail server market share.  Now Apple users can directly connect to Exchange without going through hoops. Two downers: this time next year Microsoft Outlook will be available to make that connections and Exchange 2007 or later is required and many IT shops are not up to date in Exchange Servers.

8)Numerous improvements to Apple utilities. iChat, Finder, Expose, Dock, TimeMachine, Safari among many others all have seen speed and convenience improvements.

NYTimes’s David Pogue seems to reflect the consensus among the IT Press “Either way, the big story here isn’t really Snow Leopard. It’s the radical concept of a software update that’s smaller, faster and better — instead of bigger, slower and more bloated. May the rest of the industry take the hint.” Now I believe speed and reliability [little if ever monthly Tuesday patches for Macs] and code efficiency will play to Apple’s advantage. And so Microsoft, if it delivers a Windows 7 marginally faster and just as memory voracious as Windows Vista,  will have tanked in this race. But Windows 7 will have full touch screen operations and many utilities that will be vastly improved. Both vendors will have problems with peripherals and applications that don’t work in the new OS. So the jury will have to wait until October 22nd when Windows 7 steps out to see if Apple will gain  an OS upperhand [a distinct competitive advantage to outweigh Apple's double the price of PC hardware] in the big IT Corral Shootout.