Apple talks up OS X Leopard
Jobs sings praises of revamped Finder and desktop.
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Apple chief executive Steve Jobs used the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco to talk up the forthcoming OS X Leopard operating system.
The Apple co-founder boasted that the software due in October will "set a higher bar".
The new features that Jobs outlined and demonstrated include a revamped interface for the desktop and finder, as well as several new components for searching and viewing files.
A new Stacks system will attempt to reduce clutter on the desktop by allowing the user to store items such as application shortcuts and documents as a group of items on the dock.
This pile or stack of information will expand when the user clicks on the icon, freeing up space on the desktop.
Apple also plans to make the iTunes Cover Flow feature an everyday component in Leopard as part of the new Quicklook technology.
Cover Flow lets users flip through music files by navigating the album cover art. Similarly, Quicklook displayes a full-sized preview of documents including videos, PDFs, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.
'Spaces' will offer four virtual desktops that let users organise their windows into separate environments.
A businessman preparing a sales pitch, for instance, might open his presentation and a spreadsheet in one space, and have his email and calendar in another.
Jobs also emphasised the completion of OS X's transition to 64-bit. The current version of the software supports 64-bit applications at the Unix layer only.
Leopard will extend this support to the user interface and the Cocoa application programming interface that allows for third-party applications. This makes it far easier for outside developers to create 64-bit versions of their software.
Although most consumer applications have little to gain from the transition to 64-bit, Jobs claimed that it will benefit memory intensive processes.
"We're seeing a real need for 64-bit not just in scientific computation, but in the professional arts, whether it's animation or the high-end Photoshop market," said Jobs.
Jobs peppered the presentation with his signature humorous jabs at Microsoft. The event began with a clip of comedian John Hodgman, who plays 'PC' in Apple's US television commercials, dressing up as Jobs and declaring that Apple will shut down due to the success of Microsoft's Windows Vista and Zune media player.
Microsoft was again the butt of Apple's jokes when Jobs demonstrated the upcoming version of iChat.
While showing off a new feature that allows users to superimpose their own mouths into portraits of other people, Apple's marketing chief Bill Schiller took on the persona of Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and declared: "I love my Mac".
Microsoft was, however, also at the centre of one of of Leopard's top selling points. Apple's Boot Camp software, which allows Mac users to boot directly into Windows XP and Vista, will see its first official release when Leopard debuts in October.
The company also announced that the upcoming version of its Safari browser will be ported to Windows.
Apple hopes that the browser will be able to cash in on the success of iTunes by bundling the browser with Windows versions of the media player.
Mac OS 10.5 Leopard is scheduled for released in October, although conference attendees were given beta copies of the operating system after the keynote.
There will be no public beta for the software. Public beta versions of Boot Camp and Safari for Windows are currently available at Apple's website.