Apple today unveiled Mac OS X Snow Leopard, which builds on a decade of OS X innovation and success with hundreds of refinements, new core technologies, out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange and new accessibility features. It’s been a busy morning for Apple, what with the announcement of this, plus the new iPhone 3G S and upgraded lines of MacBook Pro and Macbook Air computers.

To create Snow Leopard, Apple engineers focused on perfecting the operating system, refining 90 percent of the more than 1,000 projects in Mac OS X. Users will notice a more responsive Finder; Mail that loads messages 85 percent faster and conducts searches up to 90 percent faster; Time Machine with up to 50 percent faster initial backup; a Dock with Expose integration; a 64-bit version of Safari 4 that boosts the performance of the Nitro JavaScript engine by up to 50 percent and is resistant to crashes caused by plug-ins. Snow Leopard also includes an all new QuickTime X, with a redesigned player that allows users to easily view, record, trim and share video to YouTube, MobileMe or iTunes. Snow Leopard is half the size of the previous version and frees up to 6GB of drive space once installed.

For the first time, system applications including Finder, Mail, iCal, iChat and Safari are 64-bit and Snow Leopard’s support for 64-bit processors makes use of large amounts of RAM, increases performance, and improves security while remaining compatible with 32-bit applications. Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) provides a revolutionary new way for software to take advantage of multicore processors. GCD is integrated throughout Snow Leopard, from new system-wide APIs to high-level frameworks and programming language extensions, improving responsiveness across the system. OpenCL, a C-based open standard, allows developers to tap the incredible power of the graphics processing unit for tasks that go beyond graphics.

Mail support

Snow Leopard builds support for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 right into Mac OS X Mail, Address Book and iCal so you can use these applications to send and receive email, create and respond to meeting invitations, and search and manage your contacts with global address lists. Exchange information works seamlessly within Snow Leopard so users can take advantage of OS X only features such as fast Spotlight searches and Quick Look previews. Snow Leopard is the only desktop operating system with out of the box support for Exchange 2007 and businesses of any size will find it easier to integrate Macs into their organisation.

Enhancement for the vusually and aurally impaired

Every Mac includes innovative features and technologies for users with special needs, and Snow Leopard adds groundbreaking new features that make the Mac experience even more accessible to those with a vision impairment. Apple’s Multi-Touch trackpad is now integrated with the VoiceOver screen reader so users can hear and navigate different parts of a window or the desktop by moving a single finger around the trackpad as if it were the screen. Snow Leopard also introduces built-in support for wireless bluetooth braille displays and the connection of multiple braille displays simultaneously to one Mac.

Price and availability

Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard will be available as an upgrade to Mac OS X version 10.5 Leopard in September 2009. For Tiger users with an Intel-based Mac, the Mac Box Set includes Mac OS X Snow Leopard, iLife ’09 and iWork ’09.

Details of pricing will be available at launch.