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Apple Plans Office Invasion With OS X ‘Snow Leopard’


Despite the iPhone-heavy keynote at Apple’s WWDC event yesterday, the company did reveal a handful of details about the next revision of its Mac OS X desktop operating system. As the rumors predicted, the next generation of OS X will be called Snow Leopard and will focus on stability and speed improvements rather than flashy new features.

That doesn’t, however, mean there won’t be new features. Indeed, while details on Snow Leopard are still shrouded in NDA agreements, here’s what we know: Snow Leopard will be optimized for multi-core processors, it will offload some graphics rendering to graphic processing units (GPUs), it enables “breakthrough amounts of RAM” and it will see an updated version of QuickTime, dubbed QuickTime X.

But here’s real doozie, according to Apple’s press release, “Snow Leopard includes out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange 2007.”

Yes you read that right, Apple is bringing the same Exchange support it touted for the new iPhone to the desktop OS, making it much easier to integrate Macs into corporate environments.

It’s as though we’re entering stage two of Steve Jobs’ world domination plan.

First hook the kids with iPods and iPhones, then hook the parents with iChat video, fast web browsing, simple photo management and more. Now it’s time for those maturing kids and their parents to start clamoring for a Mac at work in addition to the one they’re using at home.

Prior to Snow Leopard such cries would likely have fallen on deaf IT ears, but adding in support for Exchange means that corporate IT directors are fast running out of reasons to keep Macs off their list of supported hardware.

While Exchange support and multi-core processor optimizations are indeed new features, it’s easy to see why Apple is touting the next OS X (which incidentally is not necessarily 10.6, nowhere in any of the release materials does the company refer to the release by version number) as a maintenance release. Exchange support isn’t sexy.

Loyal Mac fans will no doubt disagree, but Leopard was a less than stellar release plagued by wifi problems, application incompatibilities and other small, but annoying issues.

So, despite the lack of sexy new features, I for one welcome what Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, describes as hitting the pause button on new features in order to perfect the existing features.

There’s no release date for Snow Leopard yet, though Apple does say that the release is “scheduled to ship in about a year.” Also unknown are the details about upgrade pricing.

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