RealTime IT News

New Mac OS Shows Its Stripes

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple Computer released the software developer kit (SDK) of its next-generation Macintosh OS for desktops and servers in an attempt to leapfrog over Microsoft's Longhorn.

During its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) here Monday, Apple said it would work with developers to bring 10.4x (code-named Tiger) to market in the first half of 2005. The upgrade from OS X version 10.3x (Panther) includes 150 new features, such as support for 64-bit applications that can use 16 exabytes of virtual memory, as well as enhancements to audio, video and search.

Tiger will also allow 32-bit apps to run alongside 64 bit ones, with its LP64 support in the GNU C Compiler -- a high-quality C compiler released under the GPL. In addition, Tiger will allow fine-grain locking Symmetric Multi-Processing, access to control lists and Apple's Xgrid application.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Tiger would also address several Windows NT migration and support tools to, "make us a better citizen in the Windows world." The improvements include support for SMB performance, SMB home directories and a bridging tool to bring NT users to Kerberos and native support for text.

If successful, Tiger would be the fifth major upgrade of Apple's OS X platform. It would also debut a full year or two earlier than the next generation of Windows "Longhorn."

"There have only been three major OS transitions," Jobs said to attendees here. "We started it with Apple II to Mac OS. Then there was DOS to Win 95, which took several years, and Microsoft's attempt with migrating people using Win 95 and its related systems to Longhorn, which is starting in -- what -- 2006 or 2007?

Jobs said that Apple's developer base was as strong as ever with 12 million OS X users (half of Apple's install base) now using Mac OS X and upwards of 12,000 native applications built for Panther alone.

In coordination with the release of the SDK, Apple also upgraded its Xcode development tool to version 2.0.

Some of the more popular changes in store for Tiger include support for the growing popularity of RSS (really simple syndication). Apple said it would back the technology and Atom protocols in its Safari Web browser. The technology alerts users to RSS news-feed content and allows for personalized searches.

Apple said Tiger would also debut a revision to the operating system's search capabilities. Dubbed "Spotlight," the technology (ala iTunes) will be integrated into the taskbar with core functions slated for Apple's Finder, Mail, Address Book and System Preferences. The search itself adds more native terminology, including not only Meta data, but also full content indexing.

Jobs highlighted the technology by instantly finding a map of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park from a PDF file that had no mention of the historical landmark in its Meta tags. The technology is also able to save queries as a smart folder.

Looking to keep its edge in audio and visual technologies, Jobs said Tiger would take advantage of the Advanced Video Codec (H.264) and integrate it throughout the operating system. The technology is being developed to offer higher quality video at lower data rates for everything from 3G phones to High Definition DVDs.

Some of the other additions to Apple's Tiger include:

  • Improvements to the Apple iChat AV platform, which would allow video conferencing among four people and audio conferencing for up to 10 people with a new GUI.
  • The development of "Dashboard," which is being touted as "Expose for Widgets," where individual mini-applications or portlet containers could be accessed and hidden using a function key.
  • Better synchronization with Apple's hosted .Mac service that could potentially include non-Macintosh devices.
  • A visual scripting platform called Automator, with more than built in 100 actions, which lets novice users build their own scripts and link workflows without having to take a course in AppleScript.
  • The addition of Core Image and Core Video to Apple's Core Audio technology, which includes real-time, hardware-accelerated and pixel-accurate filters, effects and transitions.
  • This year's WWDC is very focused on building a foundation for its Enterprise IT and QuickTime developers by hosting special tracks in each area. The company is also expected to show how Tiger fits into its core development platforms, such as application technologies, development tools, graphics and media, hardware and its OS foundations (Darwin, Cocoa, Carbon).

    And despite the easy target of Longhorn's delayed release, the competition between Apple and Microsoft is a bit adversarial. Jobs related a conversation over dinner with Bill Gates where Gates commented that the relationship between the two companies was better than ever. Jobs mirrored the compliment. However, Jobs pointed out that Apple's marketing campaign notes Microsoft would need to start its process of copying Tiger's functions.