The Road Ahead: Snow Leopard, Windows 7, and Mac OS X 10.7

There is a lot of rumour and speculation about Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at the moment. Let’s looks at the future of Apple and Microsoft OS offering.

When Apple launched Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in October 2007, it left a lot of users out in the cold. For the first time, Apple raised the minimum specifications quite high compared to the previous release.

Leopard cut out all G3 owners, as well as G4 owners with Macs lower than 867 MHz. Initially I thought this was a bit high, but after seeing how well Leopard runs on an 867 MHz PowerBook G4, I see why Apple did it. They wanted to ensure that even the lowest spec supported machine was more than just useable.

Looking Ahead

Once again we find ourselves speculating about Apple’s decision about the next version of Mac OS X. Snow Leopard has already been labelled as a minor update, but it is heavily rumoured that it is going to be Intel only, leaving PowerPC users behind.

However, one thought is that Apple will not stop Leopard development when Snow Leopard comes out: Both will be updated side-by-side. Snow Leopard is expected to be released in the first quarter of 2009, so if it comes out in March, that will make Leopard 18 months old. As I write this, we are on the sixth system update for Leopard, and by the time Snow Leopard is released I think we will have seen the seventh. Shortly after Snow Leopard is released, we will probably see 10.6.1 and an update to 10.5 fixing any incompatibilities and bugs between the two.

Snow Leopard is a minor update and not a fully fledged new OS with sparkly new features. If Leopard is updated alongside Snow Leopard, it will only be with the release of Mac OS X 10.7 that the PowerPC platform will truly be left in the dark.

I predict the last update for Leopard will be around October 2009 (giving it a two year life span), with Snow Leopard updates continuing until February 2010, and Mac OS X 10.7 coming in January 2010 with only a few updates for 10.6 offering better interoperability with 10.7 and a few bug fixes. It will be with 10.7 – still without a code name – that we see new features.

Windows 7

It is the same on the other side of the camp. Microsoft Vista was released a few months before Leopard was, both boasting a whole new feature set. However, Vista hasn’t been the success Microsoft expected or wanted it to be. I believe Windows 7 will be to Vista what Snow Leopard is to Leopard, a minor update and a major bug fix.

Windows 7 is being built on the back of Vista. It will even feature the same kernel and is hoping to have very little in the way of hardware incompatibility. Basically, if a device is compatible with Vista, it should be compatible with Windows 7. I think this is the same basis Apple will use with Snow Leopard: If it works with Leopard, it should also work with Snow Leopard.

Time will tell how both Apple and Microsoft fare with their new operating systems, but it shall be an interesting next 12 months.

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