SAN FRANCISCO—At the Macworld conference here on Tuesday, Apple Computer Inc. CEO Steve Jobs highlighted the progress on a few key features of Mac OS X 10.4, code-named Tiger, but he kept most details about the new operating system—including the ship date—under wraps.
Telling conference attendees that there wasnt time to describe the 200 new features of Mac OS X Tiger, Jobs demonstrated recent builds of Spotlight, a new search engine technology, and Dashboard, a set of applets. Jobs also mentioned that QuickTime 7 would support playback of high-definition video using the H.264 CODEC.
Offstage, Apple provided a few more details of the new architectural changes in Tigers core.
Jobs gave no new word on a ship date; instead he repeated last summers announcement that the company was targeting the first half of 2005 for Tigers release.
Even developers have not been provided with details of the release schedule. "Tiger is still a little bit shrouded," said Reid Lewis, president of Group Logic Inc. "We dont know when its coming out."
Wiley Hodges, senior product line manager for Core OS and Developer Tools, described the glimpses of Tiger as refinements to what was presented at Apples developer conference in June. He also said that many of the improvements in Tiger are architectural.
"A lot of the changes are in the kernel," Hodges said.
Jobs showed off a new user interface for Spotlight and announced that the search technology is being integrated into applications, including those from Apple and Microsoft Corp.
"We have over 100 developers building Spotlight into their apps," Jobs said.
In the Tiger Finder, Apple is using Spotlight to create "smart folders" that behave like the iTunes smart playlists and iPhotos smart albums. A smart folder will automatically search for files based on criteria assigned to the folder. It will then sort the results and display them in the folder.
The Tiger version of Mail will use Spotlight for smart mailboxes, which automatically search and sort e-mail messages and present the results. Jobs also showed a Spotlight-enabled version of System Preferences.
Dashboard now includes a new Dock-like bar that slides up under the Dock, pushing the Dock up. Several of the widgets, such as Yellow Pages and Dictionary, are currently available in Sherlock as channels.
However, Hodges indicated that some of the most significant improvements in Tiger are architectural. One such change to the kernel is fine grain kernel locking, which Hodges said should provide for faster I/O.
"Dual-processor Macs will see a significant improvement in performance," Hodges said.
With Tiger, Apple is also providing a developer interface to the Mac OS X kernel in the form of an API that can extend the functionality of the kernel. Use of this API by developers could reduce the need for rewrites of applications with new versions of Mac OS X.
"Apple can make low-level changes to the kernel but allow products to remain stable between OS releases," Hodges said.
Another improvement consists of refinements to the file-locking mechanism used in file sharing, which should translate into better support for SMB home directories, according to Hodges. SMB home directories are located on Windows networks, enabling users to access their own home directory from any computer on the network.