Saturday, June 14, 2008

Snow Leopard: Back to Basics

All the media attention this week has been on the announcement of the new iPhone 3G during Steve Jobs’s keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. But for Mac users there was another huge story that day, one that took up only a few seconds of the keynote: Snow Leopard, a brand-new version of Mac OS X.

Apple has been working on Mac OS X for more than a decade, and the public has been able to use it for eight years. In that time, the replacement for the classic Mac OS has grown through several stages: it began in an awkward, half-functional state, progressed into a fully functional replacement for OS 9 with increasing levels of speed and stability, and finally became an entrenched system that advanced by acquiring whizzy new features such as Spotlight and Time Machine.

Early in Mac OS X’s history, the operating system sped up with each new version, as Apple engineers tuned the code and got it working better. But those improvements have faded, and the last two releases have certainly been no faster than their predecessors. Instability, too, has returned to Mac OS X. (The title of my predecessor Rick LePage’s opinion piece, “What I Hate About Leopard,” says it all.)

So how refreshing was it for Apple to announce—albeit out of the spotlight of the keynote, via press release—that Apple is taking a break from rolling out Mac OS X updates with hundreds of new features. Instead, the next major release of Mac OS X will focus on speed and stability.More>>