Is OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’ becoming Apple’s ‘Windows XP’?

A recent article on Macworld.com by Gregg Keizer suggests that OS X 10.6–Snow Leopard–is becoming Apple users’ answer to Microsoft’s venerable Windows XP:

One in four Macs now run OS X Mountain Lion, Apple’s newest operating system, data released last week showed.

But there are signs that OS X Snow Leopard, an edition shipped in August 2009, may be the Mac’s equivalent of Microsoft’s Windows XP, an OS that stubbornly refuses to go away.

Mountain Lion, also known as OS X 10.8, accounted for 25.8% of all Mac operating systems during October, according to statistics from metrics company Net Applications. That represented a three-and-a-half-point increase over September.

Apple issued Mountain Lion on July 25.

For all its gains since then, however, Mountain Lion has not kept pace with the uptake trajectory of Apple’s last two editions, OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, and OS X 10.7, better known as Lion.

Those two grabbed slightly larger shares after three full months of their availability: Snow Leopard accounted for 27% of all Macs by the end of November 2009, and Lion, which launched in July 2011, had a 26.4% share in October 2011.

Mountain Lion’s gains were again more at the expense of Lion than Snow Leopard, although the gap narrowed in October.

While Apple customers running Snow Leopard can upgrade to Mountain Lion – assuming their Macs meet the requirements – they have done so in far fewer numbers than those who relied on Lion.

Since Mountain Lion’s debut, Snow Leopard has lost 6.6 percentage points, a drop of 17%. Meanwhile, Lion has lost more than double that – 15.6 percentage points – falling 33% since July.

Snow Leopard has lost more than half its share of all Macs since Lion’s appearance over a year ago, but so far it has been resistant to Mountain Lion’s call to upgrade. In each of the last two months, for example, Snow Leopard’s losses were less than its 12-month average.

Apple also, perhaps just temporarily, extended security support for Snow Leopard when it issued a patch update for the three-year-old operating system in late September, confounding security professionals who had assumed it would stop serving OS X 10.6 with updates, as it had done with earlier editions once two newer versions had been released.

Snow Leopard is no Windows XP – for one thing it’s less than one-third as old as that 11-year-old OS from Microsoft – but the comparisons, what with both posting slow-but-steady declines and their makers’ extending security support, are intriguing.

It’s unclear why Mac users are holding on to Snow Leopard, but one factor may be that it is the newest Apple OS able to run applications written for the PowerPC processor, the Apple/IBM/Motorola-designed CPU used by Macs before Apple announced a switch to Intel in 2005. The first Intel Macs launched in January 2006.

(Snow Leopard will not run on PowerPC-equipped Macs – the last edition to do so was 2007’s OS X Leopard – but it can run applications written for that chip via the Rosetta utility.)

Another possibility: Many Mac users dinged Lion for being less stable and reliable than Snow Leopard, and said they would stick with the older OS. Those sentiments have also been popular with many Windows XP users.

I have several Macs, one of which I use for hours every day and some, like my iMac G4 Flat Panel, that I use only occasionally. The biggest reason for its lack of regular use is that it has Tiger (10.4) installed, and it has an 800MHz G4 processor, which is slow by today’s standards.

I also have an Aluminum PowerBook with Leopard (10.5) installed, which was my everyday-use computer until I got the MacBook Pro on which I’m writing this, and that has replaced the AlBook.

When I got the MBP, I was skeptical at first about Lion (10.7) (Mountain Lion, though announced, hadn’t been released yet), so I went with Snow Leopard. I didn’t like it all that much–to me, it wasn’t that much different than Leopard, plus I kept reading about all the great things that Lion could do. So, knowing that the eventual Mountain Lion installation would go far easier from Lion than it would from Snow Leopard, according to recommendations–I upgraded the MBP to 10.7.

And, it was a good choice. It had a lot of cool features that, once I became familiar with, I grew to like. The new multi-gestures feature in particular is very nice, but took some getting used to…and the combination address and search bar in Safari is great.

When the first wave of Mountain Lion updates came out, everything I read said that upgrading was a great idea. If you haven’t then you should, I read.

The tighter integration with iOS 6 is really helpful, and things like iCloud Tabs, which synchronize and give me access to my page tabs in Safari throughout my MBP and iOS devices is very helpful. Also, Safari is MUCH faster in 10.8.

And so on. All of which brings me back to Snow Leopard, and why people seem to prefer it. Could it be because of the Rosetta support for older PPC apps? Is it, as one respondent to the Comments in the article suggests, that if he wanted his computer to be an iPhone he’d just go buy an iPhone?

If your machine can handle Mountain Lion, I really suggest you at least look into it. Yes, you’d lose the use of PPC apps, but many developers are working on releasing Universal versions (at the least) that will work with 10.8. You might have other reasons…but I urge you to at least investigate and consider the upgrade.

You might be very pleasantly surprised…as I was.

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One thought on “Is OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’ becoming Apple’s ‘Windows XP’?

  1. I don’t want to keep relearning the basic things I do. I just want to use my computer. If lion allowed me to keep exactly the way I work in snow leopard until I was ready to turn them on one at a time, I would upgrade. Other wise, I’ll just say with what I now have. I have relearned how to use my computer about 50 times. In fact I was an MIS director until just a few years ago. I am certain many people are like me and bought a Mac to get away from having to relearn how to operated our equipment over and over and over again, as well as update our software over and over and over again. Just support what I bought and leave me alone with the updates and new features. If I wanted an IPhone, I would buy one. If I wanted an IPad, I would buy one. If there are new features, I don’t mind paying for the upgrade. However I want to learn the new features and turn them on at my own pace. Until I do, I want everything to work as it has.

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