Apple is in features-lockdown as far Snow Leopard, the next edition of its operating system, goes. There aren’t going to be many of new ones. Apple calls it “hitting the pause button.”
Instead it’s concentrating on supporting increasingly multi-core chips and the hurdles of parallel processing with a mystery technology code named Grand Central, making Snow Leopard the basis of future generations of the Mac OS.
And since CPUs and GPUs are coming together, it’s also focused on an equally mysterious Open Computing Language (OpenCL) that is supposed to let any application tap into the “vast gigaflops” of GPU computing power historically reserved for graphics applications.
Steve Jobs told the New York Times that “Basically it lets you use graphics processors to do computation. It’s way beyond what Nvidia or anyone else has, and it’s really simple.”
Which got the Times to wondering about the longevity of the Apple-Intel relationship and whether Apple will throw Intel over for another chipmaker like taking up with IBM again for its Cell chip.
However, before any such industry-rattling realignment happens, Snow Leopard cuts Apple’s lingering ties to IBM. As the rumor mill guessed, it will only run on Intel machines and not on the older pre-2006 PowerPC machines.
Anyway, OpenCL is based on C and Apple wants it standardized.
Snow Leopard, which is due out in about a year, presumably as 10.6, will also raise the software limit on system memory to a theoretical and provocative 16TB of RAM, 500 times more than now and extending the system's 64-bit support.
It will also support Microsoft Exchange 2007 natively for the very first time in the OS X applications Mail, iCal and Address Book, which Apple figures should enlarge its footprint in the enterprise as well as make it consistent with the iPhone.
Snow Leopard borrows the media technology used in the iPhone version of OS X and introduces QuickTime X, which is supposed to optimize support for modern audio and video formats and offer “extremely efficient” media playback.
The Safari browser is also supposed to be more Web 2.0-grade with 53% better performance.
AndApple intends to make an honest woman of Sun and finally confirm Sun’s boast that Apple would support Sun’s 128-bit ZFS file system. It appears that Snow Leopard Server will read and write ZFS volumes.