Kitchens Sync

Snow Leopard May Be the Most Important OS X Release Ever

- 2008.06.25 - Tip Jar

Apple recently gave us a preview of its next major revision of Mac OS X, dubbed "Snow Leopard". With just the few new technologies that we have been given a glimpse of, it is plain to see that Snow Leopard will be a huge step into the future.

Whither Office?

The newest version of the Mac operating system promises complete support for Exchange Server 2007, which is very popular in business settings. I see this as Apple's attempt to steer its products into the path of Microsoft Office.

Apple has been able to create an analogous counterpart to every product in the native version of Office except one, Entourage. With Snow Leopard, users will only need to buy iWork in order to replace the majority of the functionality of Microsoft Office for Mac. With its current $79 price tag, this solution may be attractive to offices who complained that Macs couldn't match the functionality of Windows machines in a business environment.

For instance, when Snow Leopard is released, my father, who has come to appreciate the stability and features of OS X, could buy a MacBook and take it to work, knowing that he won't have any problems accessing his information on the company's Exchange server. This, along with the Mac's ability to tap into the resources of an Active Directory (a major part of Windows Server) will allow almost seamless integration into a typical business network.

Putting That $300 Graphics Card to Work Full Time

Another piece of the Snow Leopard puzzle, and one that is absolutely revolutionary in my opinion, is the new OpenCL technology. As Apple says on the Snow Leopard page,

"Another powerful Snow Leopard technology, OpenCL (Open Computing Language), makes it possible for developers to efficiently tap the vast gigaflops of computing power currently locked up in the graphics processing unit (GPU). With GPUs approaching processing speeds of a trillion operations per second, they're capable of considerably more than just drawing pictures. OpenCL takes that power and redirects it for general-purpose computing."

This allows the millions of Intel-based Macs out there to use their graphics cards all the time, not just when they are using programs requiring 3D calculations (such as games). Apple's innovative programmers saw the untapped potential of today's graphics chipsets, and they devised a way to bring it out into the open, allowing that power to supplement the increased multicore support of "Grand Central". This advance begins to blur the lines between the different subsystems of the Mac itself.

Andy Ihnatko once joked in his book about Tiger that because the Mac platform was so powerful, complex mathematical calculations were done by the keyboard controller. Someday in the near future, that may cease to be a joke.

Last, but Most Certainly Not Least

Apple also revealed four other technologies: Grand Central, QuickTime X, a new version of JavaScript, and new 64-bit technology. While I do not discount the importance of these technologies, I see them more as natural extensions to technologies that are already part of the Mac OS.

This tiny peek only increases my appetite for information on the new technologies in Snow Leopard, and when more information is released, I will be back to opine and commentate on it. LEM

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