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.