Sources told eWEEK.com that Apple plans to make copies of Tiger available in its own retail stores as well as through independent dealers by April 15, with the official announcement of the product coming earlier in the month. On Friday, a report on the Think Secret Mac market news site predicted the announcement would fall on April 1, the 26th anniversary of Apples incorporation.
An Apple spokesman declined to confirm the timing of the updates release, saying only that it would be "released in the first half of 2005."
Although Apple revealed in February that this Junes Worldwide Developers Conference will focus largely on Tiger, industry insiders understood that the company wouldnt wait until the summer to release the final product.
Tiger is likely to be the biggest software release of the year for the company; it gained its initial public airing at last Junes Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.
In his keynote speech last year to coders, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the product would include over 150 new features and compared Tiger directly with Longhorn, Microsoft Corp.s next-generation operating system due next year.
"This is years ahead of Longhorn," Jobs said, while banners around the conference took potshots at its main competitor by proclaiming, "Redmond, start your photocopiers."
Tiger features numerous improvements aimed directly at users, including a new desktop search engine dubbed Spotlight, revamped versions of its key applications such as Mail, and a new "widgets" application called Dashboard. The update also adds a new application called Automator for visually scripting the operating system and some of Apples other applications.
Potentially of more importance to the future of OS X, however, are architectural improvements designed to expand possibilities for developers, especially for content creation and scientific-technical applications.
In the core of the operating system, Apple will expand support for the 64-bit PowerPC G5 processors used in the Power Mac G5 and iMac G5 lines. Apple said previously that the changes will deliver faster math performance for all applications.
Also included in the Tiger update is Core Image, a new graphics architecture that should let developers more easily build content-centric applications and take advantage of the latest graphics processors.
Expected along with Tiger will be QuickTime 7, a version of Apples multimedia architecture which adds support for the H.264 video codec, used in both the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DVD standards, allowing live resizing of clips during playback and higher-quality streamed video.
Apple has yet to indicate whether QuickTime 7 will be available separately for earlier versions of OS X.