Thursday began final preparations for the consumer debut of its Mac OS X version 10.3, commonly referred to as “Panther.”
The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker is poised to launch both a desktop and server version of the operating system, along with new versions of a number of applications during a storewide event on Oct. 24. All 65 Apple Stores will host Panther parties between 8 p.m. and midnight including promos, a chance to win a free Macintosh computer and other goodies.
“With more than 150 new features, we’re delivering innovations today that will not be seen in any other operating system for years to come,” Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller. “Tomorrow night tens of thousands of Mac users across the country will be the first to experience the exciting new features of Panther, including Expose, a revolutionary breakthrough in user interface design, and iChat AV desktop video conferencing.”
Apple is also expected to announce that it has more than 8.5 million OS X users with upwards of 6,000 native applications, a number which the company says does not include the thousands of Java, UNIX and Linux apps available.
The client version of the operating system will have a suggested retail price of $129 for a single user license and $199 for a single-residence, five-user license. For enterprise, OS X Server ‘Panther’ will have a suggested retail price of $499 for a 10-client edition and $999 for an unlimited-client edition. CD Apple noted that volume and maintenance pricing is also available.
“Apple has done a great job in terms of how well Panther Server would fit in existing UNIX or Windows environments,” Jupiter Research (owned by the same company as this Web site) analyst Joe Wilcox told internetnews.com. “The same goes for the desktop, where e-mail and the address book can synchronize with a [Microsoft] Exchange Server and even Active Directory. When I look at Panther, I really see a release that’s very, very well positioned for large organizations.”
The Mac OS X operating system is built on its UNIX-based Darwin core — an amalgamation of its own open source code as well as bits and pieces from FreeBSD, Apache and Perl. Apple said OS X Server ‘Panther’ boasts the same 150 new features as the client version, including a Server Admin tool that the company said makes it easy for administrators to set up and manage the open source software built into Mac OS X. It also includes Open Directory 2 for hosting scalable LDAP directory and Kerberos authentication services, Samba 3 for providing login and home directory support for Windows clients, and the JBoss application server.
Samba 3 will allow Windows client users to authenticate against Panther Server directly from a PC login window, Apple said, also noting that Panther Server will be able to host Windows home directors and support Windows “roaming profiles.”
Additionally, the new Server Admin tool is intended to make it easy for system administrators to set up, manage and monitor the services built into Panther Server.
Panther Server also includes a new mail server, which Apple said it rebuilt from the ground up using the open source Postfix SMTP and Cyrus IMAP and POP servers. This gives Panther Server an open architecture for integrating with spam and virus filtering solutions, as well as SSL
“We’ve set it up so that you could replace a Windows server with a Mac server and never know the difference,” Apple Director Server Software Tom Goguen told internetnews.com. “In fact we’re predicting that many corporations’ first experience with an Apple product may be a G4/G5 tower or Xserve running Panther Server.”
Still, Apple is including the last build of Mac OS X “Jaguar” in the Panther box to buffer the changes.
“It’s not just about putting all these cool features in the box, but making sure they all work,” Goguen said. “We expect that data centers will take their time deploying Panther. We want to support our base. This is not an overnight migration. We spun up this time around a beta and seeding program with some of our customers and were very closely involved with server customers making sure it works and making they know how it works in the field.”
Apple said its marketing strategy would start to expand beyond its usual four pillars of success: imaging and design firms, education, government and entertainment. The company however was vague about its specific plans beyond its usual channels
Panther will also feature Xcode, for creating OS X applications. The application, which Apple built from scratch and has used to produce Panther, has a familiar iTunes interface and includes some streamlined debugging tools such as Predictive Compile and Zero Link.
Apple senior product line manager and Xcode guru Wiley Hodges said the feedback has been great since its introduction at the WWDC.
“Before Xcode, there was no competition for Code Warrior,” Hodges said. “There has not been a cry from MetroWerks [which makes Code Warrior] It’s actually helping us build a better developer tool. There were some people that were asking us to bring back Project Builder, but only a slim number.
On the client operating system side, Apple has completely redesigned the Finder, and said file searching is now up to six times faster than it was in Mac OS X version 10.2 ‘Jaguar.’ Apple said it now provides one-click access to favorite folders, storage, servers and iDisk in one location, and offers dynamic browsing of the network for Mac, Windows and UNIX file servers.
Panther also features Expose, a new way to view the desktop powered by the Mac OS X Quartz graphic engine. Expose allows a user to view all open windows and choose any of them to be on top. Apple said it visually unshuffles overlapping windows on the desktop and then organizes them into a thumbnail view to allow users to quickly locate and switch to any open window or get any file on the desktop.
Other new features include iChat AV, a desktop video conferencing solution; Fast User Switching, which gives the ability to switch between active users without logging out; FileVault, which incorporates new security standards and 128-bit encryption to keep data in the home directory secure; Font Book, providing system-level font management; integrated iDisk to automatically synch users’ offline work to their .Mac Internet server storage; a new Address Book; enhanced Windows compatibility; support for the latest open source libraries, commands and technologies, X11 applications, IPv6, Kerberos and the NFS file system; and new versions of iSynch, iCal, iPhoto, iMovie, the iTunes Music Store; and the Safari browser.
Editor’s note: Internet.com editor Thor Olavsrud contributed to this report.