Apple will beat Microsoft to the punch by about two months with its new operating system release. Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard has gone up for pre-order on the online Apple Store, and Apple quotes an August 28 ship date. (For the record, Windows 7 is still due to hit stores on October 22.)
If you already own an Intel-based Mac with OS X 10.5 Leopard installed, then you'll only need to shell out $29 for the upgrade to Snow Leopard. A family pack good for five systems can be nabbed for $49, too. Those prices are quite a bit lower than Microsoft's, but then again, Apple does get a juicy cut from all computers capable of (legally and easily) running OS X. Because, you know, it makes 'em.
OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard may not look all that different from the previous release, but Apple has done a lot of work behind the scenes. "All key system applications" are now 64-bit, and developers can use Grand Central Dispatch to take better advantage of multicore processors as well as OpenCL to run general-purpose code on graphics processors. QuickTime X introduces a new, cleaner interface for video playback, as well, and Apple's Mail application now supports Microsoft Exchange out of the box.
You can learn more about the new release by hitting the Snow Leopard section of Apple's website. By the way, the rumors were right: the new product box really does just show a snow leopard on a gradient background. Steve Jobs must've hired the guy who designs all those wolf t-shirts. (Thanks to TR reader ssidbroadcast for the heads-up.)
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