The next version of Mac OS X is at least six months out, but Apple's CEO says its new capabilities still will put Mac users and developers well ahead of Microsoft's Longhorn.
SAN FRANCISCOApple CEO Steve Jobs had good and bad news for software creators Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference here: While the next version of Mac OS X will afford Mac developers plenty of new capabilities for their applications, Apple wont spring the "Tiger" release on end-users until the first half of 2005.
In the meantime, however, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer Inc. used the kickoff of its annual developer meet to hand out preview copies of Tiger (aka Mac OS X 10.4), with software developer kits for new features including enhanced video chat, real-time video and image manipulation at the system level, extensive new search capabilities, a new Xcode compiler and an interactive utility for displaying Internet-savvy widgets.
In addition, Tiger will extend Mac OS Xs 64-bit capabilities to bring it into closer sync with the companys PowerPC G5-based desktop hardware.
Jobs said Tiger will include more than 150 new features. He predicted Mac developers will welcome 64-bit capability for any application, fine-grain locking, access control lists (ACLs) and built-in Xgrid clustering functionality.
Jobs said Tiger will continue Apples drive for improved Windows compatibility. New features aimed at interoperability will include better support for SMB home directories and the ability to display Word tables within TextEdit.
On the interface front, Jobs said, Tiger will feature systemwide search capabilities called Searchlight. He demonstrated how users will be able to save search criteria and build Smart Folders, which update their contents in real time according to predefined search parameters.
Jobs said Spotlight technology can be included in any application, and he demonstrated it running within Tigers System Preferences, Mail and Address Book. "This is years ahead of Longhorn," Jobs said.
Also new in Tiger will be support for the H.264 open-standard video codec, which Jobs called the "next generation of video." A new standard for upcoming high-definition DVDs, H.264 is touted as providing four times the resolution of MPEG-4 at the same data rate.
Tiger also will ship with Safari RSS, a new version of Apples Web browser that supports display of Real Simple Syndication news feeds. Safari RSS also will store RSS search queries as bookmarks.
Perhaps the flashiest software introduction of the day was for Dashboard, which Jobs described as "Exposé for widgets." This feature allows various widgets, such as notepads, clocks and stock tickers, to fly on screen at the touch of a button, then fly off when dismissed. All widgets can access online information, making for live Web cam updates.
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Also getting a visual splash was the upcoming revision to iChat, Apples instant-messaging and video-chat application. Using H.264, iChat will allow audio conferencing among as many as 10 people and videoconferencing among four.
Jobs also introduced Automator, a visual front end for scripting that will be included in Tiger.
Although the minimum six-month gap between debut and delivery will be longer for Tiger than it was for Panther (aka Mac OS X 10.3), the new version of Apples OS is still scheduled to arrive at least a year ahead of Microsoft Corp.s long-awaited Longhorn OS, currently on track for 2006. Apple made marketing hay of the time lag; banners hanging outside the WWDC keynote stage taunted Microsoft with slogans such as "Redmond, we have a problem," and "Redmond, start your photocopiers."
In addition to Tiger, Jobs unveiled a new line of Apple Cinema Display LCD monitors, all of which feature a sharp-framed aluminum casing to match Apples desktop Power Mac offerings. A new 20-inch display will cost $1,299, while a 23-inch version will be $1,999. Both models, due in July, support 100 pixels per inch, and Jobs said they boast superior brightness and viewing angles to earlier models of the same size. They also both contain two USB 2.0 and two FireWire ports.
More dramatically, Jobs pushed the size limit with a 30-inch LCD monitor, which will ship in August for $3,299. The enormous screen, which displays 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, will run only with the Power Mac G5 and will require a $599 Nvidia 6800 Ultra video card. A single Power Mac can drive two 30-inch displays, for a total of more than 8 million pixels.
Continuing his campaign to bury earlier versions of the Mac OS, Jobs announced that more than 12 million Mac usershalf of the installed basehave adopted Mac OS X. He also cited new or upcoming Mac OS X products, such as Java development tools from Borland Software Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc., Oracle Corp.s 10g database and Quark Inc.s Quark Publishing System.
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