Apple Partners: Snow Leopard Arriving Quietly

Apple on Monday said Snow Leopard will go on sale Friday with a single user license priced at $29. Apple also is offering a single household, five-user license for $49.

"With the past few OS X releases, Apple has always given us several weeks' notice, but Snow Leopard is definitely shaping up to be a lower key announcement and rollout," said Shane Spiess, president of Portland, Ore.-based Apple reseller MacForce.

With OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple focused on the hundreds of new features that came with that release, but with Snow Leopard, its marketing has focused instead on the intrinsic value of the architectural changes it contains. In addition to full 64-bit support, Snow Leopard includes Grand Central, a set of technologies that adds support for multicore processors and parallel computing, and OpenCL, which lets applications tap into unused GPU computing power.

Nick Gold, sales manager at Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore-based Apple VAR, says these technologies will make it easier for developers to write applications that take full advantage of the horsepower that comes with today's PC hardware. That means faster processing of video effects, faster transcoding between various media formats and faster rendering of 2-D and 3-D graphics and animation, according to Gold.

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However, customers will only see major improvements in performance once their applications are updated to take advantage of Snow Leopard, Gold noted. "Once professional applications are updated to take advantage of these core technologies, even more people will be motivated to upgrade," he said.

Given the low price points for Snow Leopard, Apple analysts are expecting a wave of immediate upgrades. Piper Jaffray Analyst Gene Munster is predicting that Apple will sell 5 million copies of Snow Leopard in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ends Sept. 27, and MacForce's Spiess believes that could turn out to be an overly conservative estimate.

"Past OS X releases have always been $129, and that was still a great value for what you were getting," Spiess said.