Apple @ Work: Back to why people think Snow Leopard was the peak of “OS X reliability”

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For many years I’ve read articles and listened to podcasts about how the quality of Apple’s operating system has gone downhill over the years, and Snow Leopard was peak reliability. However, every time I talk to someone directly about it, I try to explain that the technology has come a long way since 2009, so it’s not an Apples to Apples comparison (pun intended).

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Snow Leopard Era

Mac OS X Snow Leopard (aka version 10.6) was the seventh major release of OS X, Apple’s desktop and laptop operating system.

Unlike some previous new releases of OS X, Apple’s goal with Snow Leopard was to improve performance and reduce memory usage. Apple marketed Snow Leopard as having “no new features”. Snow Leopard was intended to be a refinement of OS X 10.5 Leopard. Snow Leopard was also the first version of OS X to drop support for PowerPC computers. So if you have an application that requires PowerPC, Leopard was the last version that would run it.

Even though Apple marketed it as having no new features, several “features” debuted in Snow Leopard. Microsoft Exchange support debuted on OS X for the first time after finding iPhone compatibility with iPhone OS 2.0. However, only Exchange 2007 or later was supported.

Over the years since then, I’ve read countless articles and listened to numerous podcasts about how stable Snow Leopard was then, and remains, the benchmark for quality. Was Snow Leopard a reliable operating system at home and at work? Yes it was. I was managing over 50 Macs at the time, and I vividly remember that year was a smooth one software-wise.

Yes, the MobileMe rollout was a dumpster fire, but it was a great release overall. Rolling out MobileMe is something we should be focusing on though, as a precursor to what’s creating the narrative that macOS “isn’t as reliable in 2022”.

What has changed since Snow Leopard?

I maintain that macOS (OS X) is exceptionally reliable in 2022. macOS Monterey is a significant upgrade, and Apple has come a long way to maintain compatibility with accessories, printers, and third-party apps with each annual upgrade from macOS.

What has changed is the way we use our Macs, the number of applications, the number of cloud services and the number of interconnected protocols on macOS and iOS.

If you think about your computing life with Snow Leopard, it’s very different from what it is today. Much of our data syncs automatically and almost instantly to iCloud. You can take a photo on your iPhone and it appears on your Mac in seconds. You can upload a movie to Dropbox and immediately share it with someone else using a 5G connection. With these great advancements in network-based technology, chances are it won’t work 100% of the time.

We ask a lot of our technology, and there are a lot of interconnected parts. There are so many amazing things (the Universal Clipboard comes to mind) that didn’t exist in 2009, and we often give Apple enough credit for working the vast majority of the time in 2022.

Just as people who claim Snow Leopard was the most stable operating system ever shipped can’t back it up with data, I can’t refute them with data. However, I know I’ve never been more productive with macOS and iOS in my career, and that counts for something. Apple isn’t perfect, but we should give them credit for shipping yearly software upgrades to macOS and iOS as they transition to an all-new chipset in Apple Silicon that is quickly being adopted in the business.

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Steven L. Nielsen