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Mac OS X 10.6: Apple's Snow Leopard Pounces

Apple OS X Snow Leopard
Source: Apple

It's not free, but Apple isn't going to be charging its faithful all that much to upgrade to the new Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" release.

Snow Leopard will officially go on sale this Friday with a cost of $9.95 for users who bought a Mac system in June or later. Other existing Mac users will have to pay $29 to upgrade to the Snow Leopard release.

That's a steep cut considering that the previous major release -- OS X 10.5, or "Leopard," debuted in Oct. 2007 with a $129 price tag.

Apple also said in a statement that Mac OS X Server Snow Leopard, the server edition of the OS, will also go on sale Friday. The release includes software like Podcast Producer 2 and Mobile Access Server, and will carry a $499 price tag with unlimited client licenses. That's also a dramatic price reduction: The unlimited-client edition of Leopard, the previous version, had carried a suggested retail price of $999.

The latest version of the OS also comes a little earlier than the expected September release date that Apple had previously set for Mac users in June during its Worldwide Developer conference. Leopard made its appearance only after several months of delay due to Apple's efforts to concentrate first on iPhone development.

Now, with Snow Leopard, Apple is bringing more Mac apps into the 64-bit era, while providing an operating system that takes up less hard drive space than the previous 10.5 Leopard release.

New in Snow Leopard is a 64-bit version of Apple's Safari 4 Web browser. Apple's Finder, Mail, iCal and iChat applications have also been upgraded to 64-bit versions as well which Apple said provides performance benefits to Mac Snow Leopard users.

Case in point is Safari, the 64-bit version of which is 50 percent faster than the 32-bit version, Apple said.

QuickTime 10, Apple's media player, also gets a boost with improvements that are intended to make it easier to view and share video content.

Integration with Microsoft's Exchange Server 2007 is also built into Snow Leopard, providing Mac users with the ability to interact with Exchange for calendar and mail services.

Overall, Apple said that its engineers refined 90 percent of the projects that are included in Mac OS X.

With all the changes made in Snow Leopard, Apple also said that it was able to make the operating system smaller. According to Apple, the Snow Leopard is half the size of the 10.5 release and frees up to 7GB of drive space once installed.

"Snow Leopard builds on our most successful operating system ever and we're happy to get it to users earlier than expected," said Bertrand Serlet, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering in a statement. "For just $29, Leopard users get a smooth upgrade to the world's most advanced operating system and the only system with built in Exchange support."

An Apple spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The new Apple 10.6 Snow Leopard release follows Apple's 10.5 Leopard release by nearly two years. To date, Apple has updated OS X 10.5, no less than eight times for security and feature updates. The most recent update occurred at the beginning of the month with the OS X 10.5.8 release, which plugged 18 different security holes.