Apple pleasantly surprised a lot of long-time Mac users yesterday (Sept. 20) when it pushed out a security update for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Based on Apple's history, many users had expected support for the outdated operating system to cease now that OS X 10.8, or Mountain Lion, is here.
The move was unexpected because the Cupertino, Calif.-based company usually only continues support for its two most recent operating systems. Snow Leopard is now the third newest Mac platform — ancient in the lightning-paced world of technology.
The decision to update Snow Leopard was likely spurred by the fact that it's still so widely used. Had Apple not updated Snow Leopard yesterday, 47 percent of Mac users would have been running an unsupported operating system. Because of the fix, that number is only about 13 percent, Computerworld reports.
In July, Apple's Safari Web update snubbed Snow Leopard users, and dropped Windows support entirely. The browser patch was made available only for Mountain Lion and Lion despite the fact that, in June, nearly 40 percent of Macs still ran Snow Leopard.
Mountain Lion (released in July) and Lion also received updates yesterday. All told, the update included more than 30 security patches, bug fixes and new features. Of those security holes, 25 were plugged in Snow Leopard.
Computerworld also pointed out that the last time Apple released a security update for an operating system that was three generations behind was in 2007, when OS X Panther was patched 19 days after Leopard was released.
Yesterday's Snow Leopard patch came eight weeks after Mountain Lion's debut. Although Apple won't comment, that could indicate continued support for Snow Leopard for the foreseeable future. Only CEO Tim Cook knows.