A screenshot of the new OS X Snow Leopard. The OS just went on preorder on Only available for Intel-based Macs, it's priced at $29 for one license, or $49 for 5.  (Source: Apple Talk)
Apple's hot new OS is officially on sale

The competition against Windows 7 is officially heating up.  Apple's OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, set to be released in September, is now for sale by preorder on  The pre-orders quickly jumped to the top of Amazon's software sales charts, currently holding the top 2 spots (with Microsoft Office 2007 in third place).

Snow Leopard does have Windows 7 beat in pricing for existing computers.  The OS retails for $29.00 for a single license or $49.00 for a "family pack" of 5 licenses.  However, it should be noted that the Apple OS only works on Apple's latest Intel-based hardware (no PowerPC Macs), while Windows 7 can install on virtually any system.  The level of OS vendor support to hardware driver manufacturers necessary for Windows could easily justify the pricing difference.  Still, some would argue that's a merit of Apple's closed-system approach.

The new OS's biggest improvement is moving to a 64-bit kernel, with all Apple applications being rewritten to run natively in 64-bit mode.  With more memory accessible (among other advantages), Apple says the shift makes its applications run much faster.

A bundled package including Snow Leopard and Apple's iWork and iLife application suites is also being sold for $169.00, with a 5 license pack sold for $229.00.  With a price of $120.00, iWork and iLife will likely be slightly cheaper than Office, which is typically priced at $150 at launch. 

The new OS also has a few more price quirks.  Newly purchased systems are eligible for a special $9.95 pre-order (most new Windows PCs come with a free upgrade to Windows 7).  Any Mac bought after June 8 is eligible, details can be found here.

For mass-Mac users, an unlimited license has dropped from $999 with Tiger OS X (the last version of OS X) to $499.  With Tiger, $499 would only buy you 10 licenses.

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