Blizzard of Snow Leopard Scat

Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, was announced last week at Apple's developer conference and there are few details creeping out from under the developer non-disclosure agreements. Mac enthusiast sites are busy posting conjectures that fill in some of the blanks, including which processors that will run it, its performance, or whether it will run on the PowerPC.

Mac OS X Leopard installation as a spiritual practice
Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, was announced last week at Apple's developer conference and there are few details creeping out from under the developer non-disclosure agreements. Mac enthusiast sites are busy posting conjectures that fill in some of the blanks, including which processors that will run it, its performance, or whether it will run on the PowerPC.

A French Mac enthusiast site shows a list with the system requirements for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and an Intel processor tops the list. There's no word about PowerPC support.

That could be. A number of developer blogs have expected this move for more than a year.

Still, from what I heard from Mac developers following the Macworld Expo, today's Leopard is fairly abstract and there's more trouble supporting the older Tiger version of the OS than having an application that runs only on Leopard, whether on Intel or PowerPC. One said, Xcode 3.0 "gives you the PowerPC version for free." So, perhaps the deep plumbing changes coming in Snow Leopard will be difficult to achieve on PowerPC. (Or perhaps this situation will change as the year progresses.)

An Apple representative said on the subject: "We haven't confirmed what architectures it'll run on at this point."

According to Apple, Snow Leopard's big themes are primarily plumbing-related rather than a flurry of new features: 64-bit support for 16TB of RAM, "Grand Central" multicore optimization, and improved graphics support with Open Computing Language (OpenCL), which is called Botan.

(In my pre-WWDC post, Sean Safreed, co-founder of Red Giant Software, scored with one of his wishes for Snow Leopard:

“My Apple wish list really focuses on helping developers exploit the power of mutli-core and multi-GPU options to increase processing speed, a commodity that is always in short supply for video users. CPUs are only going to get more cores-even laptops will have four CPU cores in 2009 and likely the graphics card will have mutliple cores as well. Users can already load up to 4 GPUs into one machine but few games can even exploit this power fully.”)

Meanwhile, reader Mythic on Reddit last week said he had interviewed at the Apple team working on Open Computing Language. He offered more information on the scope of Apple's work:

I think it's more than that. I interviewed with Apple's GPGPU group (they do have several people working full time on this stuff) a few months ago and got the impression that OpenCL is intended to abstract over a variety of cards and computing platforms. So you could write your program once in OpenCL and be able to run it on an ATI card, an NVIDIA card, or just your multi-core CPU. More interestingly, you could run it in tandem on your GPU and CPU with some sort of adaptive load-balancing performed automatically. I have no idea how much of this actually made it into Snow Leopard, but it's a cool idea.

On the architecture front, DigiTimes said that Snow Leopard will arrive in time for Intel's Nehalem family of processors. (The story is now available only to the site's paid subscribers.)

Intel's plans for Nehalem are to scale the architecture from between one to eight (or more) cores per CPU across mobile, desktop, workstation and server platforms, an increase from the limit of one to four available in current CPUs. Additionally, Intel will introduce (or re-introduce) simultaneous multi-threading technology (SMT), similar to its Hyper-Threading technology which allowed each core to execute two threads per clock cycle. ...

The final correlation between the two companies is the launch date for Snow Leopard which Apple gives as in "about a year." Intel is set to start introducing Nehalem later this year with Bloomfield for desktops and Nehalem-EP (Gainestown) for 2-way workstations or severs, but the mobile platforms Clarksfield and Auburndale are not scheduled to hit the market until the second quarter of 2009.

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