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Snow Leopard to ship this Friday

Mac OS X 10.6 arrives early

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Apple announced today what the rumor mill reported last week: that Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, will be released this Friday, August 28.

Today's announcement is a rare occurence in the tech world - a product being released before it was originally scheduled to hit the streets.

When Apple's SVP for software engineering, Bertrand Serlet, demoed Snow Leopard back in June at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference, word was that the latest Apple feline would be uncaged in September. Today, though, he said in a canned statement, "Snow Leopard builds on our most successful operating system ever and we’re happy to get it to users earlier than expected."

Maybe not all that much earlier, but in a world where later is the norm, an early birth is a unusual event - and pre-orders are being taken starting today on Apple's online store. But before you plunk down your $29 (or $49 for the five-user Family Pack), remember that the big cat will only run on Intel-based Macs. That dual 2.5GHz PowerPC 970MP-equipped Power Mac G5 that you bought back in mid-2006 need not apply.

Snow Leopard adds a host of under-the-hood improvements (Apple will be more that happy to tell you about them here). From our point of view, the most welcome are built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 (are you listening, Redmond?), the multicore assistance provided to developers by Grand Central Dispatch (GCD), and support for OpenCL, which marries CPUs and GPUs for acceleration of parallelized tasks such as media presentaion and creation.

In our experience, GCD is a relative snap to take advantage of, and OpenCL less so - but developers have been futzing around with both since this June's WWDC, so expect to soon see the fruits of their labors appear on a desktop near you.

That is, if you have an Intel-based Mac. ®

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