Apple previews OS X 10.6: Snow Leopard

Apple is making it very clear that Snow Leopard isn’t about features – it’s about refining and improving the existing infrastructure. According to the Apple page Snow Leopard ‘builds on Leopard’s enormous innovations by delivering a new generation of core software technologies that will streamline Mac OS X enhance its performance and set new standards for quality. Snow Leopard dramatically reduces the footprint of Mac OS X making it even more efficient for users and giving them back valuable hard drive space for their music and photos.’

While Apple isn’t adding any new ‘features’ they are touting Snow Leopard as having Exchange Support – and why shouldn’t it? The iPhone for example will have full support for ActiveSync making the Mac a poor cousin. However while Exchange Support sounds good on paper the implementation is via the Exchange Web Services protocol which means the Mac will still be a second-class citizen in a Windows environment.

On a more positive note Snow Leopard adds better 64-bit support and raises the theoretical RAM limit from 4TB to 16TB. It also ships with a new technology called ‘Grand Central’ that lets OS X better support multicore systems. ‘Grand Central’ means Apple will continue to gain better performance by adding extra cores to chips without needing to raise clock speed. (And yes ‘Grand Central’ is a name used for a service by Google so we’re not entirely sure how Apple is going to get around that trademark conflict.)

Snow Leopard introduces a new version of QuickTime called QuickTime X which is a ‘streamlined next-generation platform that advances modern media and Internet standards.’ SquirrelFish a new WebKit javascript interpreter will also be bundled with Safari – giving a much needed Javascript speed boost to Safari.

Apple also previewed another new Snow Leopard technology called OpenCL. Open CL ‘makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit.’ So it will no doubt be Apple’s implementation of GPGPU computing.

Lastly Snow Leopard Server also gets its own preview page at Apple with talk of updated server technologies like iCal Server 2 Podcast Producer 2 a new Address Book Server ZFS file system support and Remote Access which ‘delivers push notifications to mobile users outside your firewall and a proxy service gives them secure remote access to email address book contacts calendars and select internal websites.