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If you weren’t listening closely to the first couple of minutes during Steve Jobs’ keynote speech yesterday, you might have missed another significant product announcement: Snow Leopard OS X. Details were sparse from the Silicon Valley-based company at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, but it appears the similarly named feline will be more of a performance enhancement to the operating system released last October.

The upgrade will address a number of bugs regarding stability issues and improved compatibility with Microsoft Exchange 2007, among other overhauls on Safari, Address Book and iCal. Snow Leopard also brings with it a new version of Apple QuickTime, optimized for more efficient playback. In comparison to my now-defunct PowerBook that ran on Panther OS, version 10.3.9, Leopard 10.5.2 (which coincidently I bought the week it was released, when my Panther gave out on me after three years), has been like warp-speed. However, nothing is perfect — not even Apple.

Bloggers and journalists alike have been quick to note that the new release, however, will only work on iMacs and MacBooks with the Intel chip, potentially alienating PowerPC users, according to PC Magazine. Echoing the PowerPC problem, Jacqui Cheng at Infinite Loop, however, applauds the focus on performance control, as "things like the MacBook Air, iPhone, iPod touch, and other mysterious devices that have yet to be announced need better performance for better battery life."

Interestingly, following a long line of big cats in the OS X series (most recently, Panther, Tiger, and Leopard), Snow Leopard is not the first upgrade to an OS, but it is the first spin-off. For extra hype, Snow Leopard is expected to ship a year from now, possibly at MacWorld in January 2009, going head-to-head with the release of Microsoft Windows 7, the successor to the less-than-beloved operating system, Vista. However, judging by its name, it would make a great holiday season release.