Snow Leopard to go on sale this Friday for $29, analyst predicts sales in excess of 5 million copies

Corroborating previous rumors, Apple's website is now officially allowing consumers to pre-order copies of Snow Leopard, with a ship and sale date of August 28th. In case you don't have a calendar handy, that's this Friday, and a few weeks before Apple's original anticipated ship date in late September.

Early this morning, the online Apple Store was mysteriously down for a short period of time, a sign which is usually the hallmark of a brand new addition to the store.  No no, an Apple Tablet didn't mysteriously and instantly become available for purchase, but there was some interesting news regarding Snow Leopard.

Corroborating previous rumors, Apple's website is now officially allowing consumers to pre-order copies of Snow Leopard, with a ship and sale date of August 28th.  In case you don't have a calendar handy, that's this Friday, and a few weeks before Apple's original anticipated ship date in late September.

Apple is billing Snow Leopard as a "better Leopard", and indeed, much of the improvements in the new OS don't center on bells and whistles, but rather focus on increasing system speed and efficiency. 

Apple writes on its website:

To create Snow Leopard, Apple engineers refined 90 percent of the more than 1,000 projects that make up Mac OS X. Users will notice refinements including a more responsive Finder™; Mail that loads messages up to twice as fast;* Time Machine® with an up to 80 percent faster initial backup;* a Dock with Exposé® integration; QuickTime® X with a redesigned player that allows users to easily view, record, trim and share video; and a 64-bit version of Safari® 4 that is up to 50 percent** faster and resistant to crashes caused by plug-ins. Snow Leopard is half the size of the previous version and frees up to 7GB of drive space once installed.

When Apple originally released Leopard in 2007, Apple saw a signficant uptick in Mac sales. This time around, one analyst (Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray) is predicting that the launch of Snow Leopard will be even more successful, and that Apple will sell over 5 million copies of the OS by the end of the current quarter.  Of course, the cheap $29 price point doesn't hurt either.

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