I’ve been playing around with Snow Leopard on Wil’s Mac for hours this week. So far, the single most impressive new feature is speed. Snow Leopard is decidedly faster and smoother on Wil’s new MacBook Pro. Is that all there is? Speed? Where’s the eye candy? Is this an upgrade that can make Mac users happy? Yes. And no. Depending on your needs and expectations and hardware, Mac OS X Snow Leopard might as well be Hello Kitty.
Each successive version of OS X arrived with notable improvements and features. Lots of features. Panther was a stable and fast delight. Tiger brought in a truck of Apple eye candy. Leopard growled with features and refinement.
What’s not to like? Leopard is stable, fast, loaded with features, works well on new and old Macs, Intel or PPC. But Leopard is the past. Snow Leopard is the future.
Where Panther and Tiger and Leopard, oh my, glamoured and glittered Mac users, Snow Leopard appears plain, despite some gargantuan changes where you can’t see them.
Apple is laying the groundwork for future Macs like four friends peel a fried onion at Chili’s. One layer at a time.
Intel’s Core 2 Duo CPUs have more capability than either Leopard or Windows Vista can handle, let alone the thousands of applications and utilities available for both platforms. Apple intends to make more use of that multitasking power in Snow Leopard.
Do you need all that Snow Leopard can provide if you can only work on one thing at a time anyway (we‘re not true multitaskers, we’re serial taskers)? Maybe not.
Snow Leopard is a careful, calculated, creamy blend of what’s inside vs. what you see, need, and want. Eye candy sells more boxes than fuel injection.
There’s plenty to like about Snow Leopard’s finish, but it’s not a bucket full of features as was original Leopard. For example, Time Machine backs up faster. The first time. After that, who’s watching?
The Finder is faster, but it’s still the Finder. Add a few handy menu-driven features in Snow Leopard to the Dock and Stacks, and Apple’s marketing gurus can make a whole web page drip with eye-popping features that really don’t pop.
QuickTime X is another piece of eye candy, implementing some features found before in QuickTime Pro. It’s evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Under the Hood
Without much for snow ‘n tell, Apple makes noise about what you cannot see. Under the Snow Leopard hood is a lot of 64-bit support that Apple loving calls “Ready for the future.” Does that mean much? Not now.
What it does mean is that some of the spiffy new technology in Snow Leopard won’t mean much to Mac users with Macs barely a year old. Check this chart to see how your Mac stacks up to Snow Leopard’s major new technologies.
64-bit support, Grand Central Dispatch, Open CL, QuickTime H.264 hardware acceleration. All Macs are not created equal. Rather, Snow Leopard doesn’t work the same on every Intel Mac.
One highly touted features is Snow Leopard’s ability to connect to Microsoft Exchange server. But only the latest version. If your company uses Exchange, you might be pleased. Otherwise, it’s a non-starter feature for the rest of us.
Upgrade? Or, not?
This is the first version of OS X that does not merit an unqualified, shout from the rooftops, yes. Snow Leopard is fast and polished. Smooth and quick. It’s what’ll be on Macs for the next few years. It’s the start of the future.
Does Snow Leopard deserve to be on your Mac?
Assuming your Mac qualifies as one than will run Snow Leopard, buy it anyway. Apple wisely reduced the price to a mere $29 for an upgrade (you must have Leopard already on your Mac). That’s chump change. It’s a cheap date.
Caveat emptor, my fellow Mac users. It’s possible that some Mac software that runs fine on Leopard may not run so fine on Snow Leopard, though Mac software developers have already begun shipping the latest versions that do.