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.

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