In many respects, based on what Apple has shown at WWDC 2009, using Snow Leopard is likely to be a nonevent for users and IT, outside the newfound ActiveSync and Exchange 2007 support. The really big changes are under the hood: a sped-up Java processor; a new parallel-processing architecture called Grand Central, to support multicore-enabled applications; the ability to steal processing capability from graphics cards when you're not playing games; and a faster video engine in the revamped QuickTime X engine. Optimized apps will thus run faster on Snow Leopard due to processor optimization, and Web, video, and animation should run faster, period.
The UI is nearly identical to Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, so there should be almost no learning curve for either IT or users. (An updated Safari 4 has the most notable UI changes.) But there are a few small changes to be aware of both as a user and as someone supporting users:
There are new controls over text input for Chinese languages, including the ability to use gestures on a newer Mac's trackpad to write Chinese characters, picking up an iPhone capability.
In the Dock, if you click and hold on an app's icon, you see images all the windows open for that application (something Windows 7 will also do when it ships in October). The Stacks feature in the Dock now lets you drill into subfolders.
In Icon view in the Finder, there's now a magnificiation slider, and the icons are live previews, so you can play movies, page through PDFs, and so on.
There are likely to be a raft of similar-scale enhancements in the final version when it ships later this year (upgrades start at $29 per user).
The latest Mac OS fits that much easier into business IT
Despite its public diffidence about enterprise adoption, Apple has made Snow Leopard an easier fit for the enterprise. ActiveSync support, the death of AppleTalk, and various security enhancements are of little use to the consumer audience that Apple formally targets.
Ironically, the lack of fundamental changes that could break applications or require user retraining should also appeal to enterprises -- especially those whose mixed environments will soon require significant resources to accommodate the coming shift from Windows XP to Windows 7. Either way, organizations that use Macs will be able to ease their Mac management, and those that are considering Mac adoption now have a few more obstacles removed.