Live, From New York -- It's the OS X Show

Steve Jobs told you it was coming.

During May's Worldwide Developers' Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, Jobs stood before the assembled Mac developers to proclaim that the Mac OS X train had left the station -- and they would be well-advised to get on board. To further drive the point home, Jobs cited a Macworld study that found that most OS X users would switch applications if it meant they could have software that runs natively in the new operating system. Jobs predicted that OS X-native apps would hit the market in a bell-curve fashion -- a trickle in the first few months, followed by a flood in the summer and fall.

And so went the implicit challenge to Mac software makers: if you don't have OS X-native applications out or in development by the July Macworld Expo in New York, you're going to lose customers to your competition, Mr. Developer.

And so anyone attending Macworld Expo at the Jacob Javits Center can go expecting at least two certainties -- muggy July weather and a steady drumbeat of OS X talk.

Welcome to the OS X show.

Apple typically uses the two Macworld Expos in the United States to set the public tone for the next six months or so. Take last year's Macworld Expo in New York, where the focus was on hardware -- the Cube, new iMacs, and multiprocessor G4 towers. At January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Apple changed its focus to its "digital hub" concept -- the Mac as the center of a lifestyle that included digital music, movies, and mobility. Hence, the release of iTunes, iDVD, built-in CD-RW drives, and the Titanium PowerBook G4.

One other major announcement was made at the January Expo -- a ship date for OS X. And that makes the New York conference the first Macworld Expo where Apple has a shipping version of its next-generation OS to show off. Although new hardware almost certainly will be on the agenda, think of Macworld Expo New York as OS X's debut party.

Just as Macworld Expo sets the public tone for Apple, WWDC sets the agenda for developers working behind the scenes. If one thing was clear at this year's WWDC, it was that OS X is Apple's top priority. The company trumpeted the new OS throughout the developers conference, repeatedly citing how easy it is to produce applications in the Cocoa programming environment. Not only that, Apple announced -- a few months ahead of schedule -- that OS X would come pre-installed on every new Mac. Apple's message: here it comes, with or without you.

Thus, no matter what Apple does at Expo, you can be certain that the Carbon and Cocoa applications will be flowing like cheap wine at a Honan family gathering. While most developers aren't willing to talk specifics about products, lest it steal thunder from their announcements at Expo, many will confirm that OS X apps are on the way. Expect many demos -- if not actual product announcements or release dates -- during the trade show.

Besides Apple's keynote, which is certain to take on an OS X theme, look for the other keynote, delivered by Microsoft's Mac business unit, to potentially focus on the new OS. The software giant has already committed to releasing an OS X-native version of Microsoft Office by the fall. With a Mac version of its Outlook messaging and collaboration product now available, Microsoft plans to spend some time talking about its efforts to Carbonize Office.

Just as the Blue Mouse is coming to Macworld, OS X is coming to Macworld Expo and the Mac platform in general -- whether you're ready or not. The OS X show is now underway.

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