Snow Leopard To Hit Stores Friday

Apple will release major OS X upgrade weeks ahead of Microsoft's Windows 7 launch party.
In a surprise move, Apple said Monday that it plans to release a highly anticipated upgrade to its OS X 10 operating system on Friday.

Mac OS X v10.6, also known as Snow Leopard, will be available for purchase at Apple's retail stores, authorized resellers, and from Apple's online e-commerce site. OS X 10.5 Leopard users can upgrade to Snow Leopard for just $29, Apple said.

"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 VP for software engineering, in a statement.

Apple was not expected to ship Snow Leopard until later this year.

The early release means that the operating system will hit the market weeks ahead of Microsoft's new Windows 7 OS, which will be available to consumers on Oct. 22nd. That could give Apple an edge with consumers torn between purchasing a Mac or a PC in the next few weeks. It could also boost Apple's back-to-school sales.

Snow Leopard introduces a number of new features to the Mac operating environment, particularly for power users.

"For the first time, system applications including Finder, Mail, iCal', iChat' and Safari are 64-bit and Snow Leopard's support for 64-bit processors makes use of large amounts of RAM, increases performance and improves security while remaining compatible with 32-bit applications," Apple said in a statement.

Mac OS X 10.6 also includes a new multithreading technology that should prove popular with gamers and other users that require maximum horsepower for graphics processing and other tasks.

"Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) provides a revolutionary new way for software developers to write applications that take advantage of multicore processors. OpenCL, a C-based open standard, allows developers to tap the incredible power of the graphics processing unit for tasks that go beyond graphics," Apple said.

Snow Leopard also offers built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, a feature that could help Apple make gains in the enterprise market.

In addition to the single-user, $29 upgrade license, Apple is offering a Snow Leopard Family Pack that allows five installations per household for $49.

Apple shares were up .82% to $170.60 in mid-morning trading Monday.

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