San Francisco (CA) - As expected, Apple has previewed the next version of Mac OS X, code-named Snow Leopard. We were somewhat surprised to hear that there will be no new features, but focus on performance instead. However, if you consider performance a feature - and most of us probably will - the Apple prepares a real treat: GPU acceleration.
"We have delivered more than a thousand new features to OS X in just seven years and Snow Leopard lays the foundation for thousands more," said Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, in a prepared statement. "In our continued effort to deliver the best user experience, we hit the pause button on new features to focus on perfecting the world’s most advanced operating system." So, rather than new eye candy, Snow Leopard may turn out to be a critical transitional release that lays the foundation for future OS X features.
According to Apple, Snow Leopard is optimized for multi-core processors using a new technology called "GrandCentral", which appears to become a simplified development platform for multi-threaded OS X applications. The new OS will also raise the memory limit to 16 TB and support Open Computing Language (OpenCL), a C-based programming language that lets "any application tap into the vast gigaflops of GPU computing power previously available only to graphics applications". GPU support may be the most critical feature of the operating system and given the implications of available hardware we have to scratch our head why Microsoft hasn’t come up with a similar idea for Windows yet. If it was up to us, we would take GPU support over multi-touch on the desktop any day.
Snow Leopard includes out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange 2007 and is scheduled to ship "in about a year".