The Refining of Mac OS: Early Impressions of Snow Leopard

When Apple’s Snow Leopard website advertises “more reliable disk eject” as a one of the primary refinements in the next incarnation of its operating system, all but Apple diehards might initially wonder if moving from Mac OS 10.5 to 10.6 is really worthwhile. With Snow Leopard, Apple seizes an opportunity to focus on fine-tuning its core software rather than serving up major changes or additions in a sweeping overhaul; Snow Leopard simply makes Intel (that’s right, only Intel) Macs “faster, more reliable, and easier to use.”

In evaluating the current release candidate for OS 10.6, I found that Snow Leopard performs just so—installing quickly and even taking up just over 6GB less disk space than a clean install of the previous Leopard. Meeting the hardware requirements of an Intel processor, 1GB of system memory, and 5GB of free hard drive space, my test system seemed enjoyed snappy performance most noticeably in the form of interface animations and graphics.

While simply installing Snow Leopard proved easy and functional, it was not until I opened Apple’s Mail application when the relevance of this upgrade became immediately apparent, specifically for Apple customers like SMU’s who also take advantage of Microsoft’s Exchange mail servers. With Snow Leopard, Apple adds thorough support for the Exchange email system, enabling Mac OS to use its own Mail, iCal, and Address Book applications to access Exchange services such as Outlook’s email, calendar invitations, and Global Address Lists. Setup of an SMU Exchange email account proved extremely easy, and in minutes SMU email, SMU calendar, and SMU contacts were accessible. Here are some features I’ve tested successfully:

  • Mail was able to auto-complete names from the SMU Global Address List
  • iCal was able to view free/busy availability of other SMU accounts and conference rooms
  • iCal was able to manage multiple Exchange calendars, perfect for managing departmental or other employee calendars
  • Address Book was able to view the SMU Global Address List as well as an individual’s Exchange-based contacts

Many of these features are, of course, subject to further refinement and change before Snow Leopard’s finale September 2009 release date. Initial testing reveals that Snow Leopard will improve the performance of Intel (again, that’s right, only Intel) Macs while substantially diminishing the amount of hard drive space required for installation—and should be a smooth upgrade for customers already running Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard). The most substantial refinements in Snow Leopard finally deliver tight integration between Mac OS and Microsoft Exchange—perfect for Apple customers at SMU.

About Jason Warner

Associate CIO, Academic Technology Services
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