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Snow Leopard Smashes Atom

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 10, 2009 11:38 AM PT

Apple on Monday issued its latest update to its Snow Leopard operating system. Mac OS X 10.6.2 fixes a slew of bugs and glitches that users had been complaining about.

Snow Leopard Smashes Atom

It also froze out Intel's Atom chip, leaving "hackintosh" users -- people who use do-it-yourself methods to run Mac OS X on Intel-powered netbooks -- out in the cold.

Son of Snow Leopard

Mac OS X 10.6.2 includes general operating system fixes, font fixes, graphics fixes, mail fixes, MobileMe fixes, and Safari browser fixes.

One of the general operating system fixes deals with the problem of Macs deleting data when a user logs into a guest account. That data-eating bug was first reported shortly after Apple released Snow Leopard in August, and sparked considerable user outrage. Some users who, for various reasons, logged in as guests found their home directories had been replaced and all files had been deleted.

Some of the fixes seem to indicate that Apple is working hard to position the Mac as an enterprise computer. One of these deals with the creation of mobile accounts for Microsoft Active Directory users; another spotlights search results not showing Microsoft Exchange contacts; and a third, which is a mail fix, deals with email messages received from Microsoft Exchange servers not being formatted correctly.

Microsoft Active Directory is used in many corporate networks. It lets system administrators authenticate users and provide corporate directory services, assign policies, deploy software, and apply critical updates.

Other mail fixes include ensuring deleted RSS feeds do not return and resolving a problem that caused Address Book and Mail to stop responding when opened. Graphic fixes include general reliability and performance improvements when using some applications and functionality within specific display modes.

Snow Leopard's fixes for Apple's Safari browser remedy graphics distortion in Safari Top Sites and improve plug-in reliability.

Parting With Atom

With the latest, Snow Leopard will not work with Intel Atom chips. This effectively shuts out "hackintosh" owners, at least for now.

The future of hackintosh netbooks has been unclear for several days. Last week, it was revealed that an early test build of the latest Snow Leopard update killed Atom support. A later test version reportedly restored it. Most recently, a hacker with the handle Stellerola -- the individual who first drew attention to the update's split with Atom -- has confirmed that the update does indeed nix support for the miniature Intel chip.

Geekdom's a Sidebar to Life

The angst over Apple's disregard of the Atom chip is really an issue for only a small subset of OS X users.

"This is really an issue between Apple and the Apple enthusiast community who also happen to like netbooks," Intel spokesperson Suzy Ramirez told MacNewsWorld. "Those people are hacking or porting the Apple OS to netbooks running Intel's Atom processors, but we don't sell Atom processors to Apple, and Apple doesn't sell a netbook," she said.

"There's no upside for Apple coming into the netbook market or Snow Leopard changing to support the Atom," Shane Rau, a PC chip analyst at IDC, told MacNewsWorld. Further, the Atom chip does not play a big role in Intel's business, he added.

Atom shipments make up 24 percent of Intel's mobile PC processor shipments, Rau said, but account for less than 9 percent of the chip giant's revenue in that segment. "The Atom is a high volume, low ASP (average sale price) product," he explained.

"I think Snow Leopard's not supporting Atom implies something about Apple's not wanting to support netbooks and also not wanting to associate Snow Leopard with a high volume, low ASP product," Rau said. "Apple has a target audience that may not need high volume, low ASP products like the Atom."

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