Snow Leopard: For Intel Macs Only?

Susie Ochs's picture

Snow Leopard: For Intel Macs Only?


Not so fast -- the Snow Leopard that developers got is just a preview. But yes, it's a preview for Intel Macs only.

 

So you may have heard some rumors that the next version of OS X, code-named Snow Leopard, will work on Intel Macs only. Screenshots (and more) from the developer preview being handed out at WWDC attendees show that the current (emphasis on current) version of Snow Leopard requires "an Intel processor." Processor support for the final version, expected to ship in a year or so, is still unconfirmed.

 

However, even if the new cat won't play nice with PowerPC-based Macs, is that really so surprising? The wording of Apple's press release might hold a few clues. First it says that Snow Leopard is meant to enhance performance, not add new features. We think that could signal that PowerPC Macs could just stay on Leopard and not be missing much. (Unless developers stop making new apps for Leopard and focus all development on Snow Leopard, but that's not really Apple's call.) And if the goal is to "dramatically reduce the footprint of Mac OS X," wouldn't supporting two completely different processor types work against that?

 

The biggest new feature Apple has mentioned is support for Microsoft Exchange out of the box, which signals to us that this sleeker, Exchange-friendly OS might be part of an Apple push to be more attractive to enterprise customers. Snow Leopard plus the iPhone 2.0 software's Exchange support and enterprise-friendly security enhancements might make the Mac more attractive to businesses. And would any business be installing PowerPC-based hardware? They're going to want the new stuff.

 

In any case, the Intel-only system requirement is anything but final. Other things we know about Snow Leopard include the Mac OS X Server Snow Leopard's use of the ZFS file system. Snow Leopard will have Safari 4 (which was also seeded to developers at WWDC, including Windows, Leopard, and Tiger versions) Snow Leopard will let your Mac take advantage of 64-bit apps, and let you get more out of your hardware by letting the CPU borrow processing power from your GPU. Developers are rightly pretty stoked about that: "Speed is always important, and being able to develop for Snow Leopard will really boost what developers can make," developer Dustin Bachrach told MacNewsWorld.

 

What we don't know -- aside from the final system requirements, a specific release timeline, and oh, everything else -- is the price: Will Leopard users balk at paying a full $129 for increased speed and optimization? Stick with MacLife.com as more and more details emerge.

 

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benet

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mixmagtmb

To me it reminds me of when they went from 68K to Hi Tech Market PPC.

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Doug Petrosky

Ok, I'm not going to say that Apple will not drop powerPC support but something seems odd about this. If this is about size, Apple can simply ship intel only binaries on intel systems (I'd guess they already do that). PPC systems can continue to get universal binaries so they are ready for upgrades as intel is the future but Size! does not seem like the reason to kill support.

Also, Apple just aquired PASemi, a PPC chip designer. Jobs went on record saying that they would be making future system on a chip designs for the iPhone/iPod (and I'm guessing AppleTV). Now correct me if I'm wrong but those systems run OS X! Sure it is a somewhat limited version of OS X but I thought that was the beauty of OS X. It's ability to scale well.

It just seems like Apple wants OS X everywhere! And the idea that Intel has all of the chip answers for all of the different devices, just doesn't pass the smell test. It seems that Apple should continue to keep OS X running on PPC, ARM, INTEL and probably AMD chips so they can be prepared for which ever company comes up with the next great low power high performance chip, and going Intel only, goes against that goal.

One last thought: This could all be marketing to help encourage PPC users to upgrade....I guess I could see that.

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NineteenEightyFour

You imply that it is easy to simply make a universal OS and then a specialized OS. I do software QA and that is an erroneous assumption. Every time you make a code change it effects the system as a whole. When I was a Mac Genius I had a Unix programmer come to the Bar with his first Mac. He had gone into the command line and changed his user password in the normal Unix way. Unfortunately, this one change meant that his keychain wouldn't unlock at first. Then he started having network problems, and eventually his system became unusable because his method failed to take into account the fact that OS X is more than simply BSD Unix.

Also consider that just because PASemi makes PPC chips, it does not mean that those chips work in the same way that the Motorola PPC chips in our Macs do. It's not as simple as applying the iPhone OS to a Mac. Think of all the things that are used on a Mac daily that aren't on an iPhone. Spotlight, text to speech, speech to text, expose, file vault encryption, printing and so on. OS X may be the base OS for all these devices, but the end product is much different for each. Incidentally, what Jobs said was that the PASemi purchase was for the iPhone. My bet is that the AppleTV will run on Intel.

Lots of people make your argument, but the reality is that supporting old architectures is a limited time proposition. The costs of development go up with each additional version, and then each version has to be thoroughly QA'd. One of the reasons why every Microsoft OS runs differently on a Dell than on a HP is that the hardware from PC to PC is different even if the processors are the same. No one, not even M$ has the resources to test an OS against every possible combination of hardware out there. Not having that problem is one reason why Macs are generally more reliable.

There are lots of good reasons why Snow Leopard may be Intel only. Ultimately the decision will be made and we, the Mac users, will live with it.

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Anonymous

I have to admit - Its a pain / sad to see another era pass by when Apple changes things up. The New OS from my understanding is an optimization. As mentioned before by another reply. Apple transitioned from 68000 to the PPC and then Intel. I myself did not have a problem with that. It just made since and it was nice to see Apple advancing. I have to admit. It was a bit sad.

We can all speculate as to what Apple is planning to do with this version of the OS. To me it reminds me of when they went from 68K to PPC. They supported 68K with new releases for awhile and then dropped the support. It happens. I would think it might have to do with Carbon and them moving more to Cocoa. (not sure) It sounds like they are riding themselves of the blout of Universal binary. (remembering the FAT Binary days of 68K -PPC)

This helps stabilize the OS for the new processors, shrinks the disk space needed for the OS and saves room for you to use. It basically trims the fat. I for one will as a Macintosh owner/user be a bit sadden by the change but believe me my MacBook and iMac will love it.

I love anything new that works :)

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Stephen

While I have no concern about multicore support, I would like to see other features on Snow Leopard available to PPC users. We should also get ZFS support, a more streamlined system and some cool new features that slip past the press releases.

Come on, my 5 year old G5 powermac (will be 6 when it comes out) isn't that old yet! I would like to see PPC support for at least 1 more year now.

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NineteenEightyFour

Five years old is often not seen as old for a Mac, but for most PC hardware 5 years is seen as end of life. We're lucky, and we shouldn't forget that. Would it surprise you to know that after 5 years if something needs to be replaced in your Mac you will NOT be receiving new parts? They aren't made anymore. Need a new logic board? You'll get a refurbished and tested/certified board. Sorry, but in high tech, 5 years is effectively THAT old.

As for a more streamlined system, that is achieved by stripping out unneeded code. In order to get that to you Apple would need to write an ENTIRELY separate OS. It's just not going to happen for hardware that is being left behind. I have used Macs since the first one in '84. We were moved from Motorola 68000 architecture to PowerPC and then moved from PowerPC to Intel. The fact is that these were good (if sometimes painful) moves for Apple to make. I'm glad they did. If you were not a Mac user before the G3, then be glad you didn't go through that transition. THAT was a painful experience. The Intel switch has been silky smooth by comparison.

Steve Jobs has said that Apple's future is Intel. By the time Snow Leopard hits the market there won't be any PPC computers that are even covered by AppleCare. All good things come to an end. Leopard–as it exists now–is a very good OS to end on, if indeed this is the end of new OSes for PPC.

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CapnVan

You're running a 5 year old G5 - what possible need do you have for ZFS?

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James Katt

I'll buy it at $129 and $199 for the family pack.

Any improvement in Mac OS X is fantastic and welcome.

A major tune up - which is what Snow Leopard is - is fully worth the price.

Windows has been such a pain of an OS. Vista is not worth the price of the upgrade. In Windows, it is best to buy a new machine with Vista preinstalled.

Not so for Macs. OS upgrades such as Leopard provide great and new functionality and improved performance.

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Anonymous

Aren't G5s 64bit?

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CapnVan

Yes, they are 64 bit capable.

But it's a PowerPC chip, not an Intel x86. Remember the Universal Binary, Rosetta, etc.? If 10.6 *is* Intel only, and part of the goal is to "reduce the footprint" of the OS, they're presumably stripping out all of the old code that allows Power chips to run the OS.

But whether that's actually going to happen remains an open question.

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Andrew

I realize that this is the nature of technology. I understand that Leopard is the limit of what my iMac G4 can handle after almost six years. However, is Apple seriously telling me that they going to make my iBook G4 and Mac mini G4, which were both purchased in early 2006 and are both still covered by AppleCare, obsolete?

Maybe I should have held out a couple of months longer for the Intel versions to be born, but when you need something, waiting is usually not a luxury you have. Still, this does suck.

Just a little.

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Anonymous

The whole point of Snow Leopard is to make the OS ready for new hardware. And by "new hardware" I mean for the next generation of hardware. Even the current Intel Core 2 Duo computers won't gain THAT much since they're only two cores and have limited GPUs.

For Apple to break from adding features, they must need to spend all their engineering time getting ready for some fancy new hardware. There must be something big going on if all their engineers are having to update existing apps rather than spend time developing new stuff. For example, it'll be sweet when they release 150 dpi monitors! Graphics and text will be super crisp. But making the UI resolution independent will make heavy demands on the GPU. Even the current GPUs would be hard pressed both in terms of speed and memory.

Apple is aimed at leaping to the future more than supporting the past.

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Anonymous

How would the release of 10.6 be making your iBook G4 and mac mini G4 obsolete? 10.6 does not add any new features. It optimizes multi-core Intel macs for performance. What about that statement do you want to apply to your G4 machines?

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