Among other things,* Apple announced the release of the next version of Mac OS X dubbed Snow Leopard today. Mac owners can get the 10.6 version hike this fall and it will cost a modest $29, a full $100 less than previous OS X updates.
Why is that? Well, while Snow Leopard has had much work done under the hood, there aren't a whole lot of user-facing new features--and that's what sells operating systems at a $129 price point. Instead, this time for 30 bucks you get "enhancements and refinements" (Apple's words).
Still, even though you might have to dig for them, it looks like a few nice tweaks are on the way with Snow Leopard. Here are the ones I'm most looking forward to.
- Faster bootup and shutdown times, and half the disk footprint of Leopard, which will save you about six gigabytes of disk space.
- Signal strength indicators in the Airport menu (so you can choose the Wi-Fi network with the best signal).
- A split pane terminal, so you can run jobs side by side (like tail a log in one pane while running a script in another, so you can see what's going on in each simultaneously).
- Date in the menu bar. (I use a hack to get this right now; happy to hear that won't be necessary anymore.)
- Safari 4. While the beta was crashy (at least for Windows), it is leaner, meaner, and a bit more flashy than Firefox or Chrome.
- Video editing and screen recording (for screencasts!) in Quicktime.
- Microsoft Exchange support--good for all those (poor) folks using Exchange.
- 64-bit computing, which means you can get more memory into your system.
Here's the full list of Snow Leopard "refinements and enhancements."