Page last updated at 00:15 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 01:15 UK

Apple unleashes Snow Leopard OS


Gareth Mitchell looks at the latest Mac update - Snow Leopard

The latest update of the Apple Mac operating system OS X, known as Snow Leopard, went on sale on Friday.

The software - available only as a DVD, not a download - was originally due to hit shops in September but Apple brought it forward at the last minute.

The system will go head-to-head with Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 7, due for release in October.

Both will also compete with a system from Google, called Chrome OS, set for release in the second half of 2010.

Google will offer an entirely new operating system, whilst Windows 7 and Snow Leopard are refinements to existing systems.

Graham Barlow, editor of MacFormat Magazine, said the update "streamlines performance"

"[It] doesn't add that many more features to the previous incarnation of OS X," he said.

The update will retail at £25 in the UK ($29 in US) for Mac users who run the last incarnation of Mac OS X known as Leopard.

Snow Leopard

Apple recommends that owners of older Intel-based Macs that are running the older Tiger OS, should purchase an upgrade which costs £129 ($169 in the US).

The package comes bundled with various other pieces of software, such as iWork, Apple's Microsoft Office competitor.

Reports suggest that Tiger users can upgrade using the cheaper package, but Apple said that this method would breach the user agreement.

The public's response so far has been muted compared with previous Apple product launches.

By 0745BST on Friday around 50 people were queuing outside Apple's flagship Apple store in Regent Street. The store opens at 0900BST.

French students Ludovic Miolane and Jessie Ugolin were at the front of the crowd. "We're going to buy it because it's so cheap," they said.

They were also impressed that it will take up less space on the hard drive than its predecessor.

Apple says that its engineers have "refined 90% of the more than 1,000 projects" that make up the operating system.

Many of these changes are hidden deep inside the software's code and are aimed at making the system smaller, faster and more responsive.

The firm claim that users who install the update will free around 7GB of hard drive space on average because of the stripped-down code.

gn system installed base graphic

Applications should load faster and the machine should also boot up more quickly.

Tweaks will also make it easier for third-party developers to take advantage of the Mac hardware.

However, the system does have some new features.

For example, it is the first operating system to come with inbuilt support for Microsoft Exchange Server, popular email and calendar services used by many companies.

The system will also ships with a new version of the Quicktime player, which will allow users to record and trim their own movies.

Reports also suggest that the update ships with anti-virus software for the first time.

However, Apple said that the system had first been introduced in Tiger and was built into Leopard.

"Snow Leopard enhanced the 'File Quarantine' technology for detecting malware," said a spokesperson.

File Quarantine works with files that have been downloaded using Safari, iChat and Mail and alerts users on their first use.

"This is not an anti-virus solution," said Apple. "There [is] a handful of malware written for the Mac that have rarely if ever caused our users problems."

Macs have traditionally not been targeted by virus writers, in part, because there are fewer of them.

Apple's operating system is currently installed in around 3% of personal computers, according to analyst firm Gartner.

Microsoft still commands the market with 95% of machines running a version of Windows.

The open source software Linux trails both, with around 2% of the market.

A review of Snow Leopard will be published on the BBC News website on Monday.

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