A major operating system upgrade with "no new features" must play by a different set of rules. Every party involved expects some counterbalance to the lack of new features. In Snow Leopard, developers stand to reap the biggest benefits thanks to an impressive set of new technologies, many of which cover areas previously unaddressed in Mac OS X. Apple clearly feels that the future of the platform depends on much better utilization of computing resources, and is doing everything it can to make it easy for developers to move in this direction.
Though it's obvious that Snow Leopard includes fewer external features than its predecessor, I'd wager that it has just as many, if not more internal changes than Leopard. This, I fear, means that the initial release of Snow Leopard will likely suffer the typical 10.x.0 bugs. There have already been reports of new bugs introduced to existing APIs in Snow Leopard. This is the exact opposite of Snow Leopard's implied promise to users and developers that it would concentrate on making existing features faster and more robust without introducing new functionality and the accompanying new bugs.
On the other side of the coin, I imagine all the teams at Apple that worked on Snow Leopard absolutely reveled in the opportunity to polish their particular subsystems without being burdened by supporting the marketing-driven feature-of-the-month. In any long-lived software product, there needs to be this kind of release valve every few years, lest the entire code base go off into the weeds.
I'm all for that - the new features every major OS release (Windows too) gets to be dizzying. It's time for a break to focus on tightening up the code and thinking and laying the groundwork for the future.
I've been running Snow Leopard about a week. The extra hard drive space and snappier performance is nice, but I have to say that my favorite feature is the monospaced font Menlo. It makes typing blog posts in TextWrangler so much more pleasant.
Read the feed: