Apples Leopard Leaps Out at WWDC

CEO Steve Jobs shows "top-secret" features of new Mac OS X Leopard, and says Apple's transition to Intel chips is now complete.

SAN FRANCISCO—Steve Jobs was at his jovial best, and why not? The Apple CEO and co-founder had a slew of interesting new products to introduce, and he was preaching to a cheering choir of developers Aug. 7 at the opening of Apple Computers Worldwide Developers Conference.

With a record 4,200 choristers in attendance here at Moscone Center West, Jobs and three lieutenants—managers Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall and Bertrand Serlet—introduced this years new Apple hardware (the Quad 64-bit, Xeon-powered Mac Pro desktop and Xserve server) and software (Leopard, the upcoming Mac OS X Version 10.5).

"With the introduction of these new products, the transition of our entire product line to Intel chips is now complete," Jobs said. "The Xeons are great, great microprocessors. And were putting two of them in each box."

Jobs promised that the new Mac Pro will deliver "twice the performance" (meaning speed) of Apples current front-line desktop, the PowerMac G5 Quad. And because the new Xeon processors run cooler and require fewer fans, Apple had room to incorporate additional hardware features—such as more USB ports, slots for more and larger video and graphics cards, and additional snap-in storage disk drives.

"Its taken a total of only 210 days [from January to August] to convert all of our workstations and servers over to Intel processors," Jobs said. "That is a tribute to our engineering staff. However, today the PowerMac is going to fade into history."

Jobs said that in Q2 2006, Apple sold 1.33 million Macs—three-quarters of them Intel-based—in what was its best-selling three-month period ever. The growth rate, he said, was "dramatically faster" than the rest of the industry showed.

Since the initial release in spring of 2001, Apple has gained 19 million users running Mac OS X, Jobs said.

Top 10 new features in Leopard

The new workstation and server were of great interest, certainly, but the No. 1 object of curiosity at WWDC was Leopard, which Jobs said is due out in spring of 2007.

/zimages/1/28571.gifApple unveils the Mac Pro. Click here to read more.

"Weve got some top-secret features were going to show you today," Jobs said. "We dont want our friends to start their photocopiers any sooner than they need to."

Jobs, of course, was referring to Microsoft, which he often accuses of copying his companys software ideas.

Jobs revealed the following key features to be included in Leopard:

  • Support for 64-bit applications, which the new operating system will be able to run alongside older 32-bit apps. "No emulation, no translation—all native support," Forstall said.
  • Time Machine: Automatically backs up everything a user does in real time, including documents, folders, applications and photos. So, if a user deletes or overrides a file, application or anything else, he or she can "go back in time" (through a series of three-dimensional-appearing windows with a space-travel background) until the file is found in the folder and retrieved. This feature earned one of the loudest cheers of approval during the demo.
  • The Complete Package: Boot Camp and a number of other older Mac applications will be bundled with Leopard.
  • Spaces: A new way of working on a desktop. It is, in effect, a way to extend the desktop into separate new desktops without having to change users. One click on Spaces, and you can move to a new desktop with different applications up on it—all at the same time. This is one way to use multiple applications to work on specific projects (Photoshop and Illustrator in one desktop; e-mail and iChat in another, for example), Jobs said.
  • Spotlight: A way to search other computers or servers in your network, using the same permissions you have on your own machine. You also can search using specifics, like file type and Boolean terms, and across servers.
  • Core Animation: With this feature, developers can designate single or multiple graphics to create a "start state," "goal state" and one or two "key frames" when building interactive user interfaces. Core Animation takes over from there, using these plot points to create a full animation clip that can be used in a video presentation.
  • Universal Access: A major upgrade in text-to-voice translation for sight-impaired users.

/zimages/1/28571.gifCan Leopards features compete with Windows Vista? Read more here.

  • E-mail: A new systemwide "To-do" list service that puts reminders in your inbox and in a separate "To-do" folder. This service can be reached from any application on the machine, Jobs said, so that reminders can be written and recorded on the fly. Also, new templates allow for better-looking layouts for photos.
  • Dashboard and Web Clips: Dashboard—a developer-specific feature—offers templates for RSS, podcasts and other common Web-related creations and includes all the HTML, JavaScript, and other tools needed to do the job. Web Clips allows users to crop any part of any Web site and present it on the desktop as a "Widget" (or "Clip" of a live Web site) whenever they want to see it. For example, a "Dilbert" cartoon can be "clipped" and made into a "Widget," and each day the cartoon will be updated for the user to see.
  • iChat: Leopard will now allow multiple log-ins, invisibility, animated avatars, video recording and tabbed chats—so that multiple conversations can be funneled into one window and accessible by tabs.

Mac Pro: The stuff that dreams are made of

"The Mac Pro is the workstation so many of our highest-end customers have dreamed of," Jobs said. "This is by the fastest Mac weve ever made."

The two Xeon chips run up to 3.0GHz, and each have 4MB of shared Level 2 cache and independent 1.33 GHz front-side buses. They also have 667MHz DDR2 (double-data-rate 2) full-buffered memory, and a 256-bit wide memory architecture.

The Mac Pro features all new direct-attached storage for up to four 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) hard drives for a total of 2TB of internal storage—the most ever on a Mac, Jobs said.

The Mac Pro retails at $2,499, Jobs said, and is available now. He added that it can be custom-configured.

The new Xserve

Loaded with similar Xeon chips and a redesigned architecture, and featuring an unlimited Tiger Server Client access license, the Xserve is "five times faster than its predecessor, and its the same price [$2,999]," Schiller said.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...