Apple is giving attendees of this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2004 in San Francisco, Calif. a first look at the next major revision to Mac OS X v10.4, known by its code-name “Tiger.” Version 10.4 is the forthcoming release of the company’s operating system that is expected to be released some time in the first half of 2005, and it touts more than 150 new features, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who took the wraps off the software at a keynote address on Monday morning.
New features abound
Major new features expected to draw the interest of consumers include a new search technology called Spotlight, that enables users to search for any file, document or information their Mac contains. The software has been modeled to work like the search capabilities of Apple’s popular iTunes music software application, and can find e-mails, presentations, images, appointments, Microsoft Office documents and more, arranging its search results by kind, time or people. What’s more, Spotlight enables users to create “Smart Folders,” “Smart Playlists,” “Smart Mailboxes” and “Smart Groups” that work in the Finder and individual applications to automatically keep content organized and updated.
Safari, Apple’s popular standards-based Web browse for Mac OS X, will feature integrated support for RDF Site Summary, or RSS — an increasingly popular method of finding updated content on Web sites. Safari can operate as a full-featured RSS reader, and Mac users will be able to create their own news clippings service using the feature.
Also new to Tiger is Dashboard, an interface for “Widgets,” or specialized applications. The technology is based on Mac OS X v10.3’s Exposé feature, and provides ways for users to more conveniently access information like stock quotes, calendar information, calculators, Webcam interfaces and more. Tiger will include several widgets and will also be exposed to developers through the release of a Software Development Kit (SDK).
iChat, Apple’s popular text, audio and video messaging service, will get an overhaul in Tiger with the introduction of support for H.264, a new video codec that scales from 3G “smartphones” to HD-quality video. The new version of iChat will also sport the ability for up to three people to simultaneously video-chat with one another, or 10 people to audio-chat.
Under the hood
Other new features coming to Tiger will include Core Image and Core Video, a new foundation technology for image and video processing applications modeled after the Core Audio technology Apple leverages with pro audio applications. QuickTime, Apple’s popular multimedia playback and editing technology, will gain support for H.264 video in the Tiger release as well. Automator is a new visual application coming to Tiger that enables users to automate repetitive tasks without needing to write scripts.
.Mac data synchronization gets an upgrade with Tiger, too — the software uses an entirely new engine, according to Apple, that lets .Mac users sync contacts, bookmarks, e-mail preferences and calendars across multiple machines.
Under the hood, Mac OS X v10.4 gets an overhauled UNIX kernel with improved Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) scalability to run more efficiently on multi-processor machines; also integrated is Xgrid, Apple’s grid computing technology. 64-bit virtual memory support has been added, also. Windows compatibility has been improved with the ability to access Windows-based home directories and authenticate against Microsoft’s Active Directory technology.
Apple said that Mac OS X v10.4 “Tiger” will hit stores in the first half of 2005, but did not offer a more precise timeframe than that. The software retains Panther’s price, however — it will cost US$129.
Mac OS X Server v10.4, or Tiger Server, will also get major new features in this release above and beyond the client version. Tiger Server adds the ability to publish Weblogs (or blogs) by checking a box in Server Admin preferences using a system based on the open source project “Blojsom.” A new iChat server is available for private intranet communications, with the ability for organizations to define their own namespace, deploy SSL/TSL encryption and Kerberos-based authentication.
Tiger Server will also gain Windows server migration tools to help admins move user and group account information from Windows Primary Domain Controllers into Open Directory; the Tiger Server can then take over as the Primary Domain Controller for Windows clients and can host Windows users’ home directories and other content.
Other new features will include Mobile Home Directories — centrally stored directories available for users on the road or in the office; a Software Update Server; Access Control Lists; an Internet Gateway Setup Assistant to simplify the process of small businesses and home office users connecting to network services; and Xgrid 1.0, Apple’s grid computing software for scientists and researchers.
Look for Tiger Server to be released in the first half of 2005 for US$499 for a 10-client version and $999 for an unlimited client version. Current Apple Maintenance Program subscribers will be eligible to receive Tiger Server as part of their service agreement, at the time of release.