Microsoft Partners Impressed With Snow Leopard

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Snow Leopard's new features include Grand Central, a set of technologies that brings support for multicore processors and parallel computing, and OpenCL, which lets developers build applications that tap into unused GPU computing power. Native support for Microsoft Exchange and expanded 64-bit support are also part of the Snow Leopard package.

By focusing on under-the-hood performance, Apple is zeroing in on a key weakness in Windows Vista, notes Ron Herardian, president of Global System Services, a Mountain View, Calif.-based solution provider. Microsoft appears to have righted the ship with Windows 7, but the Vista debacle has given Apple a chance to make up ground, he added.

"Performance in Windows Vista was a disaster, but in spite of that, Microsoft had 64-bit support and multicore processor support," Herardian said. "With Snow Leopard, Apple intends to far exceed the performance of Windows 7 on 64-bit and multicore hardware, and that's a major strategic advantage."

Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based solution provider that sells PCs and Macs, says the substantial performance boost Apple has given Snow Leopard won't go unnoticed by Microsoft or its partners. "There's just so much under the covers with Snow Leopard. Apple realizes it has a very mature OS but is still choosing to enhance it, while Microsoft is still trying to get past the Vista experience," he said.

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Vista was certainly on Apple's radar during the development phase for Snow Leopard, as evidenced from comments by Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, at the Worldwide Developer Conference in June. Serlet called Windows 7 "just another version of Vista" that suffers from the same problems.

"Microsoft has dug quite a hole for themselves with Vista, and now they're trying to get out of it with Windows 7," Serlet told attendees at WWDC.

Although they may not agree with Serlet's message, Microsoft partners whose customers were burned by Vista see Snow Leopard as a carefully cultivated attempt by Apple to tie up loose ends in OS X. Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder, describes Snow Leopard as a good "foundation" release for Apple that shows the company is more concerned with making users happy than it is with building buzz around new features.

"I'm a huge fan of OS releases that shore up areas where a product is lacking and trim and tighten up existing code to make the OS faster, leaner and more efficient," Kretzer said. "These types of releases don't make for great marketing hyperbole, but they go a long way toward creating a satisfied customer base."

However, Tim Huckaby, CEO of InterKnowlogy, a Microsoft Gold partner in Carlsbad, Calif., says much of the improvements in Snow Leopard already exist in the Microsoft world. Grand Central and OpenCL are innovative technologies, but Microsoft developers can already take advantage of these capabilities in .Net, according to Huckaby.

"There is no 'rocket science' in building a highly graphical Windows Presentation Foundation application," Huckaby said. "If the machine it's running on has a highly performing GPU, .Net will take advantage of it natively. If not, it will use a software pipeline to render, which is a huge developer productivity advantage."

Nonetheless, Huckaby believes that Snow Leopard does contain enough improvements to spur Microsoft to raise the bar in future Windows releases and says that will ultimately benefit partners and customers.

"Great companies like Apple raise the bar, and competition is exactly what Microsoft needs and responds best to," Huckaby said.