Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” and 10.6 “Snow Leopard”, the chequered entry into the world of Intel [Mac OS X History Special]

It is impossible not to mention a very important Apple era with this special Mac OS X entry: the transition of the company’s computers from PowerPC to Intel processors . This one came when Tiger was in full swing, and it was when Steve Jobs revealed to the world that just “just in case”, Mac OS X was able to run on Intel processors since its first version, 10.0. No one was indifferent.

It was a little later that Apple announced the development of Mac OS X 10.5, under the name “Leopard”. Although still compatible with PowerPC systems, Leopard was to be the first Mac OS X released from the Intel era and promised a leap in performance with the new computers . And finally, after a delay of half a year caused by the company’s overturning in preparing the iPhone for its launch, on October 26th 2007 Leopard was launched in style and in all countries simultaneously at about 129 dollars, a much lower price than a Windows Vista license at the time.

Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” and 10.6 “Snow Leopard”, the chequered entry into the world of Intel [Mac OS X History Special]
Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” and 10.6 “Snow Leopard”, the chequered entry into the world of Intel [Mac OS X History Special]

The novelties of Leopard were many, especially aesthetically. Apple abandoned its tradition of placing blue wallpapers by default in the system, and placed a space nebula that marked the system more as something that changed a lot from its predecessors, because of the change of processors in its machines. The dock, in addition, acquired a third dimension with reflections of the windows that were approaching it and the novelty of the piles of files as a solution to access more quickly to the content of the folders placed in this bar of the system.

It was also with Leopard that Apple stopped giving official support to Classic, its solution for running Mac OS 9 applications on Mac OS X versions. It went rather unnoticed, since the number of applications at that time for Mac OS X covered practically all needs.

Better design and important new features, but not very good reception

Mac OS X Leopard brought with it a long-awaited redesign of the Finder.

Another important new feature that was in demand by many was a remodel of the Finder , which simplified and streamlined its sidebar, improved its overall look, and introduced the coverflow view inherited from iTunes at the time. The system’s folders were also redesigned, moving from perspective to face and with a more pastel blue color. And by the way, it was from Leopard onwards that all the icons became an impressive 512×512 pixels.

Something that made a lot of veteran machinists pull their hair out: the arrival of Boot Camp and the official support for installing a Windows system on an Apple computer. Many were even panicked at the thought that with Windows on the Mac people would forget about Mac OS X in a similar way to OS2, but the quality of Apple’s operating system prevented that from happening.

In addition, Boot Camp offered something that many expected: security. Many Windows users who were thinking about switching to Macs made the switch when they saw that in the worst case scenario, they could still use Windows on their Macs. One server bought its first iMac at that time, it has to be said.

We also cannot forget the arrival of Time Machine , which allowed all Mac OS X users to start regular and very effective backups without effort (apart from the economic effort of buying an external hard drive).

And how did the users receive Leopard? Well, initially well, but a string of errors and system instability didn’t give the system a good name in the beginning, although Apple tried to fix it quickly with system updates. Even so, many developers began to notice that Leopard was a system with a better design and interesting new features, but that it had lost that confidence and stability that Mac OS X Tiger gave.

Let’s stop evolving and reorganize: Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard desktop, not unlike Leopard’s but with the new QuickTime X presiding over the news.

It wasn’t long before Steve Jobs announced at WWDC the upcoming arrival of Snow Leopard , with the surprise that it would not include any major new features to focus on a complete rewrite and optimization of the system . Apple would use its advantage over Windows Vista (the Microsoft system that led to significant increases in Mac sales) to stop introducing new features and focus on improving Snow Leopard by sacrificing support for PowerPC processors.

The result of this move has been, while Microsoft has introduced Windows 7 with some success, a Leopard with optimized performance, taking up much less disk space, and costing much less to install. Despite the focus on details, we have a completely new QuickTime with an interface that focuses only on video and integrates with some social networks like YouTube, and hundreds of small details that users have been discovering and appreciating.

A great advantage and one that drew applause from everyone was that Snow Leopard, being an optimized version of Leopard, cost only 29 euros. This translated into impressive sales of the system, since with such a low price users even left aside pirating the system to get a legal license. It was a good move by the company, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar reduction in future versions after the benefits this move shows.

So what happens from here?

We may discover this very soon at WWDC 2010, but the next Mac OS X should reintroduce a lot of new features now that we have a good foundation in Snow leopard. But that’s already the future, which we’ll deal with in the next entry of this special with what could happen with Mac OS X 10.7, which will surely be strongly affected by the iOS.

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