There are a variety of enhancements and refinements introduced in Snow Leopard, the next version of the Mac OS, which Apple announced will be available this Friday (August 28). The Mac is generally viewed as a consumer or niche platform, but some of the features in Snow Leopard show a maturity that makes the Mac better than ever for the enterprise.
1. Annotations in Preview. New tools enable you to annotate and markup PDF files using Preview. The annotation tools include comments, links, highlighting, strikethrough text, shapes, text, and arrows.
2. Restore deleted items to original locations. This seems long overdue. In Windows data restored from the Recycle Bin is automatically restored to its original location. With Snow Leopard restoring to the original location is now an option on the Mac as well.
3. Sortable search results. Snow Leopard adds the ability to sort Spotlight search results for more efficient searching. You can sort search data by name, date modified, date created, size, type of file, or label.
4. Nearby printers. When printing Snow Leopard displays the printers that are detected nearby, enabling you to identify and configure the best available device for printing your document.
5. Automatic update for printer drivers. When a printer is connected Snow Leopard connects to the Internet and downloads the most current driver for the device. Snow Leopard also periodically checks via Software Update to ensure that the most up-to-date driver is installed.
6. AirPort menu signal strength. Connecting to the best available wireless network is easier with Snow Leopard. The menu bar item for AirPort displays signal strength for all available wireless networks so you can choose the strongest possible connection.
7. HFS+ read in Boot Camp. Users who use Boot Camp to dual boot between Windows and Mac now have support to be able to share data between the two operating systems and access files from the Mac partition while running in Windows. The functionality is read-only to ensure that any Windows-based viruses can not write malicious software or data to the Mac files.
8. Improved 64-bit support. Snow Leopard extends the Mac's support of 64-bit hardware. Key system files and applications have been rewritten in 64-bit code, and the Mac OS is now capable of accessing significantly more memory.
9. Cisco VPN support. One of the cooler updates for Snow Leopard is built-in support for Cisco VPN connectivity. Cisco VPN's are common in enterprise networks and now Snow Leopard users can connect securely with corporate networks without needing any additional software.
10. Exchange support. Last, but not least. The 'piece de resistance' of Snow Leopard which arguably makes it more enterprise-ready even than Windows 7: Snow Leopard has native support for connecting with Exchange. That's right. No need for Entourage. It makes Microsoft's announcement to include Outlook in the next version of Office for Mac a little like shutting the barn door after the horses escape.
I am not under any misguided belief that there will be any mass migration of businesses to shun Windows 7 and adopt Mac OS X instead. However, the Mac OS X operating system has come along way from the hip, grunge 'I'm a Mac' dude on the commercials. Now it's more like if the 'I'm a Mac' guy put on 25 pounds and wore a suit. It's getting there.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.