Apple Blasts Windows Vista, Announces $29 Snow Leopard, Safari 4, QuickTime X

Apple’s WWDC today was filled with big announcements — new and repriced Macbooks, and the iPhone 3G S.  Not to be lost in the announcements was Apple’s new OS, Snow Leopard.  As anticipated, Apple used the conference to introduce Snow Leopard, the successor to Apple’s Leopard (OS X 10.5).

At the conference, Apple bragged of now having close to 75 million active OS X users worldwide, up from 25 million in 2007.  It also blasted competitor Microsoft’s Windows Vista OS as a failure, quoting InformationWeek‘s Paul McDougall.  Mr. McDougall wrote, “Vista has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users, while business have shunned it outright.”

Apple is gunning aggressively for Windows 7, releasing Snow Leopard in September, a full month before Microsoft’s release.  The release is priced at $29 (versus $129 for the previous OS, Leopard) and $49 for a “family pack” that can install on several home machines.

The company brags that the new OS improves 90 percent of the Leopard base, includes better standards support, and deploys new technologies.  The install process is also reportedly 45 percent faster and the OS consumes 6 GB less space, similar to the shrinking footprint of Windows 7 versus Vista. 

The new OS also features some snazzy new features, such as the Stacks (for better folder exploration) and the Exposed dock feature.  It also features new algorithmic enhancements such as text selection in PDF documents.  Chinese character recognition is also now supported via a drawing interface. 

Safari 4, which has been being beta tested, also was released as part of the new OS.  Also released for Windows, Apple claims that the browser is 8 times as fast as Internet Explorer 8 at JavaScript rendering.  It receives a perfect 100/100 on the Acid3 test; unlike IE 8 which fails with a 21/100 (other browsers like Opera 10 also received perfect marks).

QuickTime X is another key program, bringing “hardware acceleration, color correct, new technology for streaming (HTTP streaming).”

Apple is also making a fuss about its new OpenCL graphics and computing standard, which it hopes will be leveraged for better graphics and compute-heavy processing alike.

Between Safari 4, QuickTime X, and Snow Leopard Apple certainly delivered on all the rumors and expectations when it came to its OS and software.  However, the biggest surprise of all had to be the price.  With the new ultra-low price of OS X, the pressure is on Microsoft to lower its prices accordingly, or convince the consumer that it has a more functional new product. 

Microsoft is somewhat safeguarded, though, by the fact that Apple’s closed box hardware policies won’t allow non-Apple-hardware users to jump to OS X.  Still, the newly reduced price helps erode Microsoft’s cost arguments, and invariably will soon be appearing in smarmy Apple commercials on TVs across the nation.