By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
August 28, 2009

As of 8 a.m., there was no queue of eager customers lining up outside Apple’s (AAPL) flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan to buy the sixth major update of the Macintosh operating system, Snow Leopard, which went on sale Friday morning.

The relatively low-key launch was in striking contrast to the Oct. 26, 2007 unveiling of its predecessor, Leopard, which drew crowds that began at the store’s big glass cube and wound around the block.

It’s also in keeping with the nature of the new system, which for a new Apple OS boasts relatively few new features. As most reviewers have noted, Mac OS 10.6 is a faster, slimmer “refinement” of Leopard whose improvements are largely hidden from users.

UPDATE: Reader David Emery reports that there were 30 people waiting outside the new Reston, Va., Apple store when it opened at 10 a.m. Friday morning. And reader Mike in New York City reports that there were approximately 100 people outside Manhattan’s 24-hour Fifth Ave. store when Snow Leopard went on sale at midnight the night before. It was raining in New York Friday morning, which may have discouraged early buyers.

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