Thoughts on Snow Leopard’s return to the Apple Store

Sections: Features, Lion, Mac OS X, Mountain Lion, Operating Systems, Opinions and Editorials, Originals, Snow Leopard

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Last week, I posted an article at AppleTell asking rhetorically “Will OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard become Apple’s Windows XP?“—an OS version that simply refuses to die, and cited other commentators who’ve made similar observations.

Originally released in 2001, Windows XP sees some 40% of Windows users stubbornly refusing to upgrade to subsequent releases of Windows Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8. Snow Leopard is much more contemporary than Windows XP, but has lost just 6.6 share percentage points since Mountain Lion’s release on on July 25, compared to a 15.6 percentage point (or 33%) decline for the more recent OS X 10.7 Lion since Mountain Lion’s debut.

Aside from its stability, other explanations for Snow Leopard’s enduring popularity include its non-iOSsified user interface, which many users still prefer, and its ability to run legacy Carbon applications containing Power PC code. While Snow Leopard wont run on PowerPC-equipped Macs, it still has the Rosetta emulator, and can therefore run PowerPC applications, which is huge for some veteran Mac users who have large accretions of older software that still does the job for them, sometimes mission-critical, and for which satisfactory OS X native substitutes are unavailable.

Pundits and analysts are evidently not alone in noticing Snow Leopard’s extraordinary staying power, which Apple has now tacitly acknowledged by re-offering Snow Leopard installer disks at the Apple Store after an absence of more than a year, priced ten dollars lower than what 10.6 originally sold for.

Apple had already backhandedly acknowledged continued robust 10.6 usage by issuing a security a patch update for Snow Leopard in late September, a break with its usual practice of dropping support for earlier OS X editions once two newer versions have been released. That creates another parallel with Windows XP, which Microsoft has continued to support 11 years after its release in acknowledgement of continued widespread usership.

I’ve been reasonably happily using Mountain Lion on my going-on-four-year-old Core 2 Duo MacBook for over a month now, albeit with some reservations, but on the balance I encourage anyone straddling the fence to give taking the leap careful coinsideration. If you plan on sticking with the Mac platform, Lion and Mountain Lion represent the roadmap to the Apple OS future. For me, improved performance and significantly cooler running on the old C2D MacBook are enough to keep me on board, but I’m always happy to see backward compatibility being supported, so a salute to Apple for bringing back Snow Leopard install disks, even if they’re primarily intended as an on-ramp to Mountain Lion.

Apple has also commendably supported OS upgrading to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion directly from either version 10.7 Lion or 10.6 Snow Leopard. However, users of older machines running OS X 10.5 or earlier will need to upgrade to 10.6 Snow Leopard before proceeding on to Mountain Lion. Availability of Snow Leopard install disks will facilitate this provided your hardware is capable of supporting Mountain Lion.

Basic System Requirements for OS X Mountain Lion:

  • 64-Bit Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better required
  • Ability to boot into OS X 64-bit kernel
  • Advanced GPU chipset required
  • Internet connection required to download and install OS X 10.8

Minimum Hardware That Will Work With Mountain Lion

  • iMac – mid 2007 or newer
  • MacBook – late 2008 (MacBook5,1) Aluminum model or newer
  • MacBook Pro – 13.3″ from mid 2009 or later, 15.3″ from late 2007 and newer, 17.3″ from late 2007 and newer
  • MacBook Air – late 2008 and newer
  • Mac mini – early 2009 or newer
  • Mac Pro – early 2008 or newer
  • Xserve – early 2009 (Xserve3,1) or newer

On the Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard page, Apple notes that the most current version of OS X is OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, but if you need to purchase Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard you may order it for $19.99.

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  • Mark Blumenthal

    OS 10.6.8, Snow Leopard, is the most powerful, efficient and predictable operating system Apple has ever offered.

    It can ‘play nice’ with most programs in iOS and it can ‘play nice’ with the immense number of programs that cannot run under Lion or Mountain Lion.

    Snow Leopard epitomizes Apple Macintosh computing at its best.

    Lion and Mountain Lion represent a sop to multi-media iOS applications at the expense of all other Macintosh programs.

    I tried Lion for three days before de-installing it and re-installing Snow Leopard.

    If I change my mind, I can partition my hard drive and install Mountain Lion and its progeny as an alternate operating system for multimedia use.

    But Snow Leopard will remain my principal OS for the foreseeable future.

    • HammerOfTruth

      I think a lot of people share your sentiment. Especially ones who have a lot of software that would have to be updated to run on Lion or Mountain Lion. Some people can’t stand the new UI, myself included.

  • HammerOfTruth

    A lot of people have forgotten that they are running 10.5 on their Macs. Especially when it comes time to upgrade to a new iOS device and they wan’t to restore their data on their new Phone and their old one doesn’t have iCloud, or they might not have an old one. Even the iPod classic needs 10.6.8, so does the current version of iTunes.

  • David

    two reasons why I’ve stuck 10.6.8
    1) I have older apps that won’t run on Mountain Lion, and I need them, there are no real replacements
    2) I hate the iOs-ification of the OS… I’ve got several iPads, and I use them regularly. But I’ve got a desktop because, blast-it, there are somethings a desktop is just plain more productive at.

    I sincerely hope that at some point the tablet-ization of the desktop backs off…. or irony of irony I might have to revert to using XP or Linux under parallels to get a proper desktop on a MAC. LOL