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RealTime IT News

Apple Previews 'Vista 2.0'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs usually punctuates big-event presentations with the catchphrase "just one more thing," and then wows the audience with a final surprise announcement.

But he skipped the catchphrase here at the opening of the company's week-long Worldwide Developers Conference (WDC) to deliver the only sour note in another impressive preview of Apple's next-generation operating system, code-named Leopard, and aggressive pricing on new Intel Xeon-based systems.

"Leopard will ship this spring."

The Mac faithful were hoping for a more aggressive timetable for Leopard's release.

And Jobs did soften the blow for the 4,000+ developers on hand when he announced they would be able to pickup a beta release of the software today.

"The spring release is disappointing because Apple has a real opportunity to strike against Vista before it ships," said IDC PC analyst Richard Shim.

Still, Apple officials spent a fair amount of time onstage poking fun at Microsoft's Vista.

Jobs said there were several "top secret" features he wasn't going to show because otherwise "our friends [i.e. Microsoft] would start their photocopiers."

Apple also feels confident its current Tiger operating system is already superior to Vista. And at WDC, Apple hung a huge banner read "Vista 2.0 Preview," referring to Leopard.

The company rolled out a new Mac Pro desktop workstation, available now, based on Intel's quad Xeon 64-bit processor and priced at $2,499. Apple claimed a comparably priced Dell system would cost $3,488.

The other system announcement is a new Xserve server for Mac workgroups based on a quad Xeon server.

Available in October, it's the first multicore Xserve and as much as five times faster (depending on application) than the earlier Xserve.

A standard configuration is priced at $2,999; options include adding multiple hard drives for up to 2 terabytes of storage.

Apple also showed off 10 new features in Leopard that drew repeated applause.

Web Clip is a new way to create Widgets, mini applications for the Mac OS easily accessible from the Mac desktop. With Web Clip, users can grab any part of a Web page and turn it into a Widget.

In one demo, Apple showed how the top 10 of the New York Times book review section could be "Web Clipped" and turned into a Widget that updates the list in synch with what the newspaper does online.

"Time Machine" and the new version of iChat videoconferencing were among the other coolest new features.

Functionally, Time Machine is similar to the Windows System Restore feature that lets PC users find old files or call up an earlier system state. But that's where the comparison ends.

Time Machine lets you call up old files and folders in a far easier, intuitive way.

Folders appear to be floating in space, with earlier versions receding in the background. Type in the name of the file you want that is missing from a folder, and the folders visually go back in time to find the last time the folder contained the missing or deleted file.

Click "restore" and the file is current again in the folder. Time Machine requires a second hard drive.

The next version of iChat adds backgrounds to the screen, so you can essentially look like you're conferencing in from somewhere else –- the beach, Times Square, etc.

In the demo, there was clearly a bit of a halo or outline setting off the person from the background, but it was still a neat effect.

Apple didn't stop with simple backgrounds, adding the ability to have videos running in the background and also presentations.

In the demo, Apple vice president of marketing Phil Schiller appeared to be riding a roller coaster while videoconferencing with Jobs.

Another new feature, "Spaces" is a multi-tasker's delight.

Essentially, Spaces moves groups of applications or files into windows or "spaces" that can be moved off screen but recalled at the click of a mouse.

The user gets more screen real estate and has a multitude of groups of files or applications that can be instantly recalled.

VMware didn't get on the main stage but was slated to preview a new product to developers here designed to let Intel-based Macs run x86 operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, NetWare and Solaris, in virtual machines at the same time as Mac OS X.

VMware said it will release a beta later this year and has a Web site for those interested.

A competing product called Parallels already offers the ability to run Windows alongside the current Mac OS.

Apple also offers Bootcamp, which lets users run their Windows on Intel-based Macs, though it's an either/or proposition; the users can't run both at the same time.

Bootcamp is in beta. Jobs said a more polished version would be part of Leopard when it ships.