Apple 's latest operating system software, Snow Leopard, will go on sale worldwide this Friday.

The Mac OS X version 10.6 software will debut at Apple's retail stores and authorised resellers. Apple's online store is now taking pre-orders.

Snow Leopard's release comes days before its promised September launch. It precedes by two months the launch of Microsoft's next operating system, Windows 7.

Among Snow Leopard's improvements is built-in support for Microsoft's Exchange Server software, so Apple programs for email, calendars and contacts could become more useful in corporate settings.

Apple said Snow Leopard is half the size of the previous version, freeing up to seven gigabytes of storage space when installed. It requires a minimum of one gigabyte of RAM and runs on Macs using an Intel processor.

Users of Macs with PowerPC processors (G3,G4 and G5) will be unable to upgrade.

Those who already own Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) can upgrade for £25, with family pack and unlimited licence server options also available.

This article was sourced from the New Zealand Herald.