Mac OS X Panther on Track for September

Sources report that Apple will deliver the next big change to Mac OS X within three months of its preview release at its Worldwide Developers Conference.

Now that Apple Computer Inc. has let the cat halfway out of the bag about the next major revision to Mac OS X, sources report that the "Panther" release will reach end users in mid-September.

According to sources familiar with the forthcoming revisions to the Unix-based OS, Apple will freeze development on new features in May and finalize enhancements to the user interface in July.

While it hasnt publicized the delivery dates, the Cupertino, Calif., Mac maker has begun beating the drum for Panther, the first major release of Mac OS X since "Jaguar" (a k a Mac OS X 10.2) shipped in August 2002. Apple in March announced that it has moved back the 2003 edition of its Worldwide Developers Conference from May to June to prepare a preview release of Panther.

WWDC, which is open to registered Apple developers, will run June 23-27 in San Franciscos Moscone Center.

Apple has been terse about enhancements that will appear in the new OS, although sources said Panther will include significant new GUI features.

The WWDC preview has also excited speculation that Apple may use the occasion to roll out a 64-bit capable version of Panther alongside its first public announcement of Mac hardware that will leverage the PowerPC 970, IBMs new 64-bit processor. If so, the September date is also a likely milestone for the release of new Mac systems.

Apple declined to comment on the reports.

eWEEK first reported in August 2002 the Panther sobriquet, which continues the feline marketing theme Apple initiated that month with the release of Jaguar.

Panther will mark the third significant upgrade to Mac OS X since its debut—and the fourth big cat from Apple. The initial Mac OS X release bore the internal code name Cheetah, and Mac OS X 10.1, which shipped in September 2001, was referred to internally as Puma, although neither moniker was ever publicized. (Mac OS X 10.2 Server was code-named Tigger, sources said, another sobriquet that never saw the light of day.)

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