Apple has rolled out the final update for the version of Mac OS X known as Snow Leopard. The 10.6.8 release is designed to pave the way for the launch of Mac OS X Lion next month as well as deliver a number of critical bug fixes for Mac stability and
Initially released in August 2009, Snow Leopard was primarily dedicated to improving the performance and efficiency of Macs while reducing its memory footprint. However, Snow Leopard didn't offer much in the way of revolutionary new features. Mac OS X Lion promises to be different in this respect.
Before Mac users can download Lion, however, they must first upgrade to Snow Leopard 10.6.8, which has been specifically modified to make it possible for Mac users to download the next generation Mac OS exclusively from Apple's Mac App Store for $29.95. "By Apple having its Mac user base running upgraded software, [this] will expose the Mac base to new features, and increase the likelihood they remain on Mac," noted Piper Jaffray analysts Gene Munster and Andrew Murphy.
Apple's final Snow Leopard update includes security fixes to combat new variants of a pernicious scareware program that masquerades as legitimate security software. According to Apple, Snow Leopard 10.6.8 is able to identify and remove all known variants of the bogus Mac Defender, which attempts to trick Mac users by pretending to detect nonexistent viruses that the victim can remove by purchasing the "full version" of the fake program with credit cards.
Apple released a Snow Leopard update at the end of May that was supposed to discover and remove the Trojan program from infected Macs. However, the cybercriminals behind the scam quickly unleashed immune variants that continue to be a threat. With the 10.6.8 update, Apple hopes to shut down the bogus Mac Defender for good. "Altogether, 40 bugs are fixed in this update," according to security software firm Intego.
For example, Snow Leopard 10.6.8 slams the door on the ability of maliciously crafted fonts embedded into documents to wreak havoc on Mac machines. And users will no longer be susceptible to images with an embedded ColorSync profile that were maliciously crafted, or have to worry about someone with a privileged network position being able to intercept their credentials or other sensitive .
Apple's final Snow Leopard update contains improved support for IPv6 -- the next-generation Internet Protocol slated to replace succeed IPv4, which is close to its ceiling of approximately 4.3 billion Internet addresses. Apple also said the update will improve the reliability of virtual private network (VPN) connections.
Still, Apple's 474MB Snow Leopard upgrade is primarily about rolling out the red carpet for Mac OS X Lion, which will bring many of the features of Apple iOS for devices to the Mac platform. Among other things, Lion will feature an intelligently articulated "launchpad" display of the machine's installed apps as well as a new FileVault 2 program that automatically encrypts the machine's hard drive.
Lion is designed to run on newer Macs equipped with selected microprocessors from Intel, such as the Core 2 Duo, Core i3, i5 and i7, or one of the chipmaker's high-end Xeon chips. Other Lion requirements include a minimum of 2GB of memory and 4G of free disk space. Older Macs with PowerPC processors will not be able to upgrade to OS X Lion.