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Snow Leopard: Apple's most compatible release ever

People familiar with Snow Leopard's testing process say it is the most compatible OS update Apple has ever released.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard has been available for one week, and for the most part, users are reporting very few problems upgrading.

While not everyone is thrilled with the way Apple handled the release, it turns out that Snow Leopard is Apple's most compatible operating system release ever. According to sources familiar with Snow Leopard's internal testing process, Apple kept an enormous amount of statistics on third-party application compatibility.

They said that Apple not only tracked many of the most widely-used apps, they tracked many of the shareware apps, as well. If an application exhibited problems, the developers were notified of the incompatibility and were offered help to make it Snow Leopard-compliant.

It's true that Apple did not offer a public beta of Snow Leopard, but it did expand the seed program with this release. Some large and small businesses, as well as individuals were included in the beta program for Snow Leopard. Of course, developers have access to the code through Apple's Developer Program, to test their apps through the entire process.

Apple began working with developers in June 2008, according to my source. This gave developers the maximum amount of time to check their apps against the new operating system.

While complete data was not available for this story, anecdotal evidence suggests that upgrade problems with Snow Leopard are not widespread.

That's not to say there aren't problems. CNET's Rafe Needleman found several apps that didn't work with the new operating system. Apple also posted a list of incompatible software on its support Web site.

BusinessWeek's Stephen Wildstrom feels that the compatibility problems with Snow Leopard are "widespread but not pervasive."

Wildstrom says that Apple should have done three things differently: it should have released a public beta; it should have provided a pre-upgrade compatibility checker; and he feels developers weren't given enough time with the finished code.