Apple Shuffles Shows, Readies OS X ‘Panther’

Apple Computer announced Friday that is rescheduling its 2003 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to a new date and location in order to prepare for the next version of its Macintosh operating system, code named “Panther.”

Originally scheduled for May 19-23 in San Jose, the conference will now be held June 23-27 at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker said it needed the extra time to give developers with a more complete preview release of the latest Mac OS X currently known as “Jaguar.”

“Our annual Worldwide Developers Conference provides our developers an in-depth look at the future of the Mac platform, and giving everyone a preview release of Panther is the best way to do that,” said Ron Okamoto, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. “Moving to June ensures that every developer will leave the event with a copy of Panther in their hands.”

In anticipation of the move, Apple said it has extended its Early Bird registration discount to May 23, 2003.

Sources say the WWDC was also delayed because the vast majority of the Mac OS X development group is still working on minor updates to Jaguar and Apple isn’t even close to releasing a developer preview of Panther.

Panther is expected to build on Jaguar’s success as a UNIX-based platform with additional compatibility with new technologies. The current operating system has found new converts ranging from dyed-in-the-wool Windows users to UNIX users.

Last week, Apple made a pre-release seed of Mac OS X v10.2.5 (its latest build) available to developers in both the client and server versions. The update will attempt to fix and enhance current versions of QuickDraw, IPSec, TCP performance, Web services, Sound Manager, and Windows 2000 compatibility. The most stable build — Mac OS X 10.2.4 — currently comes in two versions.

The incremental upgrades are key to CEO Steve Job’s promise of attracting between 9 and 10 million active users by the end of this year. Currently, Apple boasts 5 million active users and upwards of 5,000 native Mac OS X applications.

But the change in show plans has set rumor sites abuzz with speculation of potential partnerships with IBM and Intel and concerns that WWDC will conflict with Apple’s appearance at Macworld New York.

Ever since IBM unveiled its PowerPC 970 processor experts have been predicting that Apple would be wise to use the chip in its next generation of machines. Apple currently uses G4 processors made by Motorola .

Industry analyst and writer John C. Dvorak has also predicted that Apple will court Intel for the development of a dual Itanium/PPC box.

But the biggest concern by the Mac faithful is that Apple may shortchange its Macworld New York audience because of its change in schedule for WWDC.

The New York show is slated for July 14-18 at the Javits Center, but there is word that Job’s will not give the keynote at Macworld New York and instead will send Apple VP of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller to inspire the crowd.

Officially IDG is keeping mum on the news, but sources close to the event told to “expect some changes for the summer event.”

The Framingham, Mass.-based organizer has already smoothed over a tiff with Apple concerning the show’s East Coast location.

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