WWDC: Apple previews Mac OS X 'Panther'

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During his WWDC 2003 keynote address on Monday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave a detailed presentation of what's to come in Panther, the next major revision of Mac OS X. The release is due out before the end of the year and sports more than 100 new features; it will cost US$129.

Highlights of the new operating system version include a revamped Finder interface that Jobs describes as "user-centric." The interface puts user's favorite folders, hard drive, network servers, iDisk and removable media into a single location that Jobs likened to the playlist used by iTunes.

Other new features include faster search, colored labels, and better integration with Windows network environments. Panther supports ActiveDirectory and SMB-based home directories on Windows servers and enhanced Windows integration that allows for printing to shared printers.

Exposé is another new feature of Panther. It allows users to view all open windows and choose any one of them to be on top; Exposé also unshuffles overlapping windows into an organized view.

FileVault secures home directory content with 128-bit AES encryption -- a feature that Jobs explained was driven by mobile users' need to secure their data in case their laptops are lost or stolen. Files are encrypted and decrypted on the fly, enabling users to keep content secure without interrupting access to their work. Other security enhancements include the addition of IPSec-based Virtual Private Networking (VPN) for Microsoft and Cisco-based networks.

Mail has been revamped with a Safari-based engine for the display of HTML-formatted e-mail. Also new to Panther is iChat AV -- a new version of the instant messaging technology that incorporates support for full-screen, full-motion video over broadband, along with audio support. iChat AV will be a US$29 release for Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" users but will be included with Panther -- an incentive to upgrade, said Jobs. It also works with Apple's new iSight video conferencing camera.

Pixlet is billed as a "studio-grade codec" for QuickTime designed for filmmakers; Apple developed the technology in coordination with Pixar. The technology provides HD-quality video on the Mac free of visual artifacts, according to Apple.

iDisk -- the Internet-based storage Apple offers .Mac subscribers -- is now integrated as part of the desktop. Cached locally for quicker access and retrieval, iDisk is then synchronized to the .Mac servers.

Integrated faxing is now included, as well -- a new fax feature is available from all print panels, and Panther can do both sending and receiving. It includes support for cover pages.

Also new to Panther is Font Book -- a system-level font management system that enables users to preview fonts with a double-click and manage fonts more easily through an iTunes-like interface that provides search, activation and deactivation features.

Preview is also a step forward for PDF integration on the Mac. Jobs called Preview the "world's fastest PDF reader," with support for search, text selection and copying, URL support and support for the PDF 1.4 format. The technology leverages Mac OS X's Quartz rendering engine, complete with colorspace conversion, image sampling and compression.

Other enhancements to Panther include performance improvements to NFS, a ports manager for accessing open source projects, expanded Kerberos support, integrated IPv6 networking, and the ability to access Quartz graphics from Python programs. Fast user switching also allows users to quickly switch between accounts without quitting running applications or completely logging out of the system.

Panther also includes new features that make it even easier for Macs to co-exist in Windows networks including an IPSec-based VPN for Microsoft and Cisco networks, support for ActiveDirectory and SMB-based home directories on Windows servers and enhanced Windows integration within the Finder that enables printing to shared printers.

This story, "WWDC: Apple previews Mac OS X 'Panther'" was originally published by PCWorld.

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