When Greenpeace lambasted Apple back in 2006, naming the computer company the worst environmental performer amongst competing brands, Apple took note.

Last year they released their family of green MacBook laptops. Designed to be fully recyclable and free of PVC, mercury and arsenic, the "green family" of MacBooks started to shift Apple's image in the right direction and ensured that at least the material components of their computers would be more eco-friendly.

But what about energy performance? Apple MacBooks are notorious for burning through batteries and generating extreme amounts of heat, requiring additional energy to cool the system (which in turn creates even more heat).

Apple is now tackling this problem of energy efficiency, but they are doing so in a typically outside-of-the-box way -- via software.

Taking Apple's green image to a whole new level, Bertrand Serlet, SVP of software development, announced yesterday at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference that the new Apple operating system OS X 10.6, called "Snow Leapard," will be greener by design.

Computer chips have become faster and faster, but along with that lightning speed has come enormous power loads and heat gain, the bane of energy performance.

OS X 1.6 solves that by allowing developers to create multithread software -- software that can unlock the power of new multicore processors by letting one chip serve many tasks. When a thread for one program is not needed, that energy is diverted for use by another program.

This software is very, very difficult to write so Apple created a software writing environment called Grand Central Dispatch which allows these programs to be written and tested more rapidly.

Serlet explains the impact of this new technology:

When it's busy, it uses more threads to take advantage of multicores. When idle, all those threads go away, giving back resources to the system. When you apply that to every application, you get a big win in performance and responsiveness.
Photos: Apple Inc.
The greening of Apple OS X
First a green MacBook. Now a new, energy-efficient OS. Apple, it seems, is really going green.