OS X Snow Leopard Still On The Prowl On More Than 1 in 4 Macs

OS X Snow Leopard Still On The Prowl On More Than 1 in 4 Macs

Microsoft may have the numbers, but one thing Apple is really good about is getting people to shift their Macs over to the latest and greatest version of OS X in a timely manner.

For example, even though OS X Mountain Lion was only released in July, over 25% of all Macs ran it by October. OS X 10.5 Leopard hovers at a little less than 10%, while OS X Lion is on about 30% of all Macs.

What’s most surprising, though, is what operating system ties OS X Lion for the most popular version of OS X: OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard.

In a recent poll made of unique visitors to almost 40,000 websites, Net Applications found that Snow Leopard had maintained a surprising popularity over the last few years, despite having been released way back in in August of 2009.

It’s easy to see why it’s still so popular. For one thing, it’s the last version of OS X to run on 32-bit processors, and it’s also the last version of OS X to not be heavily inspired by iOS. It’s also a remarkably backwards compatible operating system, since it’s also the last version of OS X to support running Carbon application.

I’m a huge fan of OS X Snow Leopard. I’d find it hard to go back, but there’s little doubt in my mind that it’s the most streamlined and efficient operating system Apple’s ever done. With Snow Leopard, Cupertino chose to do something unique, and focus an operating system update on stability and refinement, not new features. No wonder it’s still so popular.

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  • brunofpinho

    I’m still on 10.6 in my Imac 2007. Moutain Lion laggy a lot….

  • kriswm

    It’s interesting that you post this article today, since i just installed Snow Leopard on my friends mac yesterday; a Black Polycarbonate Macbook. Turns out any mac made on or before 2009 tops out at OSX 10.6.X Snow leopard so that’s probably why it’s still so popular. That includes just about all NON-aluminum macs. So if you know anyone with one of those products, they’re probably running snow leopard or earlier.

  • markbyrn

    Unlike Microsoft, Apple isn’t really trying to get people to buy the latest OS; when Lion came around with it’s 64-bit Core-2 Duo system requirement, older hardware was not upgradeable or performance was sluggish plus they lost use of legacy PowerPC apps. Apple rather sell you their hardware upgrade to get the latest OS. The reason people are still using Windows XP by the droves 10 years after it’s release is because Ballmer and company crapped out the loathed Vista and now Win 8.

  • markbyrn

    Unlike Microsoft, Apple isn’t really trying to get people to buy the latest OS; when Lion came around with it’s 64-bit Core-2 Duo system requirement, older hardware was not upgradeable or performance was sluggish plus they lost use of legacy PowerPC apps. Apple rather sell you their hardware upgrade to get the latest OS. The reason people are still using Windows XP by the droves 10 years after it’s release is because Ballmer and company crapped out the loathed Vista and now Win 8.

  • digitaltara

    Another reason may be the lack of physical installation media. Even with Enterprise licenses, at least one connection to the App Store is required to obtain an installer. I know at my office, despite using them for work product, there are no internet-connected Macs and aren’t likely to be any in the near future.

  • lwdesign1

    I still use 2 apps that have legacy PowerPC code in them and won’t run on anything higher than Snow Leopard. It’s a great OS that is crazy stable and works well. Until I find replacements for the 2 apps that will run on Mountain Lion, I’ll be with Snow Leopard.

  • TheMacGuy

    My bother has the original black polycarbonate MacBook, Core Duo (pre-Core 2 Duo) from 2006 and it tops out at Snow Leopard. My uncle has a white late 2007 MacBook, which can run Lion with a RAM bump, but it tops out there. Honestly, SL was a great OS, but now living with ML on my Retina MBP 15′, its hard to even think about going back. Its funny, when I need to work with my brothers MacBook, it takes me back to my original 13′ MBP (2009, 1st year it had the the “Pro” in the name) that had SL. I have an old eMac (remember those?) that I bought off craigslist and its running 10.2 Jaguar, and it feel like a leap back. Boot it up running OS 9, its a GIGANTIC leap. Then theres my 512k with System 1.1.

    I don’t use any PowerPC apps. In fact, the last one I used was Office for Mac 2004. When I had to reinstall SL on my MBP 13′, it required me to put in a new key code. Instead of wasting a 2nd key code, I when out and bought iWork ’09 on a CD. It is still installed on my MBP w/Retina and works (in my opinion) better then Office.

  • CharilaosMulder

    Mountain Lion is the complete Mac experience with the complete iOS experience combined. I love it. But a lot of features aren’t as stable as they were in Snow Leopard. Especially syncing through iCloud (even in Apple’s own apps) doesn’t work properly at all times. I’d like to see a stability and refinement update with 10.9.

    But then which cat is that going to be? The Lion is already the king of the cats, with the Mountain Lion implying a streamlined, faster version.

  • ActionableMango

    I can’t believe you wrote about backward compatibility and didn’t bother to mention Rosetta. Snow Leopard is the last OS X to run PPC applications.

  • elo

    that is because SAVE AS still exists. for those who do production work and cannot afford to lose files/date with the horrible VERSIONS?DUPLICATE implementation..
    cheers elo

  • elo

    Snow leopard exists because it still works and the terrible Versions implementation is detrimental to production work. cheers elo

  • Ianu

    Of course… Probably 25% of all Macs are not capable to run Mountain Lion, due to Apple politics. I own a 2006 Mac Pro that beats most Macs in most aspects but…

  • Aaron

    It’s the latest version of Mac OS X that my first-gen MacBook Pro can run. (Stupid 32-bit Core Duo processor!) Still humming along nicely, though, with the addition of an SSD. Boots in 8 seconds!

  • flitzy

    I don’t think there’s anything to read too much into on this – desktop upgrades are a heck of a lot different then mobile ones. 1) Price 2) The prompt to upgrade on mobile is more noticeable. 3) The changes are more subtle on mobile devices, so non-technology savvy people are more willing to upgrade.

  • jahsoul

    I don’t think there’s anything to read too much into on this – desktop upgrades are a heck of a lot different then mobile ones. 1) Price 2) The prompt to upgrade on mobile is more noticeable. 3) The changes are more subtle on mobile devices, so non-technology savvy people are more willing to upgrade.

    If you own a Mac and can’t afford a $20 upgrade, I raise my eyebrow. It’s not like the Windows XP $99 upgrade. It’s on $20..lol. Now you specifically…that was a generic “you.”

  • jahsoul

    I honestly had Lion and hated it. I know they had a series of updates but Lion was horrible at the beginning. Also, I didn’t upgrade to Mountain Lion because I don’t like the Hybrid approach to OSX that they were doing. I can care less about iOS apps on my production workstation. As long as my software still works on Snow Leopard, I will stay here for a while.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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