Come for the OS X beta launch; stay for the new iBooks.
Steve Jobs didn't disappoint when he announced that a public beta for Apple's next-generation operating system is now shipping as promised. But the Apple CEO also had a surprise up his sleeve at Wednesday's Apple Expo keynote speech -- a new line of FireWire-ready iBooks in up-to-date-colors.
The OS X beta release was entirely expected; Jobs announced it would be out by September 13 during his Seybold keynote speech two weeks ago. The only real OS X news on Wednesday concerned pricing and availability: Apple will charge $30 for the beta, which is available through the company's online store.
"We've held this in our hands for a long time," Jobs said. "Starting today, we want you to have it in yours."
(Don't despair, all you Mac users stuck back in the United States. Unlike the keynote at New York's Macworld Expo, where Apple handed out free Apple Pro mice to anyone in attendance, there were no OS X giveaways at this speech. The beta is available at the Paris exhibition hall, but we have to pay the same $30 that you do to get it.)
There's nothing in the public beta that hasn't been announced before. It includes Open GL support, full Java 2 implementation, symmetric multiprocessing, an instantaneous wake feature for sleeping PowerBooks, a new Finder, a pro mode that turns off the colors in the Aqua interface, and a retooled Dock. (For an in-depth look at the OS X beta and its features, see " X Arrives: Inside Mac OS X Beta.")
"We finally have the underpinnings of a super modern kernel so that we can now make the Mac OS super robust," Jobs said.
The OS X beta release may have grabbed all the pre-keynote attention. But the announced revisions to the iBook line caused just as much a stir.
The latest iBooks will now support FireWire; that's been the most requested feature for the iBook, Jobs says. The laptops will also ship with iMovie 2.0, continuing Apple's push into the digital-video market.
Like their iMac compatriots, the new iBooks also sport a different look. The laptops now come in indigo -- the dark blue shade added to the iMac line this summer -- and key lime, a bright green hue that's sure to wow the die-hard Mac crowd just as it's certain to give fits to people who dismiss the iBook as a candy-colored toy.
Featuring 366MHz G3 processors and 64MB of RAM, the indigo and key lime iBooks sell for $1,499. The key lime model sells exclusively at Apple's online store.
Apple also tweaked the Special Edition model iBooks, adding a DVD-drive. In addition to graphite, the iBook SE also now comes in key lime. It sells for $1,799.
Jobs boasted that the changes to the iBook line in addition to the overhaul of the desktop products this summer give his company "the strongest product line that Apple has ever had."
Power Mac G4 buyers will now get a choice in what graphics processor is included in their computer. For an extra $100, G4 users can order ATI's Radeon processor, which Jobs billed as "possibly the fastest graphics chip in the land."
A demo during the keynote certainly backed that claim up. Jobs showed Quake III Arena running on a computer with ATI's Rage 128 processor and one with Radeon. The Radeon-backed G4 left the Rage 128 in the dust.
Radeon features 32MB of DRAM, carries both VGA and ADC connectors, and supports Apple DVD Player software.
ATI's presence in Jobs's speech marks something of a reconciliation between Apple and its long-time partner. ATI found itself in Apple's doghouse at July's Macworld Expo after the company prematurely issued a press release that announced Apple's new hardware before Jobs had the chance in his keynote. Never one to be upstaged, Jobs dropped all mention of ATI from his July address to the Mac faithful.