Apple’s Jobs unveils 'world’s fastest' PC, new OS
- By John K. Waters
Developers attending Apple Computer’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference last week got a preview of the next version of Mac OS X, and a first look at the new Power Mac G5, which CEO Steve Jobs called "the fastest desktop computer in the world."
Dressed in his trademark black turtleneck and jeans, Jobs delivered the conference keynote before a packed auditorium in San Francisco’s newly completed Moscone Center West.
Jobs himself demoed many of the more than 100 new features that will be part of Mac OS X 10.3 (code-named Panther), the fourth major OS X release. Panther is an upgrade of Jaguar (which followed Cheetah and Puma). Jobs said that there are currently more than 7 million users of Mac OS X. Panther will sell for $130, according to the company.
Among those hundred features are a new Finder, rewritten from the ground up to be more "user-centric"; a new feature called FileVault that secures the contents of a user’s home directory with 128-bit AES encryption; iChat 2 audio and video chat software; and support for very large PDF documents.
Jobs confessed that his company took a cue from Microsoft’s Windows XP when it included a feature called Fast User Switching in its Panther builds. This feature allows users to share a single Mac and switch between accounts without having to close applications and log out of the system, Jobs said.
As always, the Turtlenecked One couldn’t resist a dig at his competitors in Redmond. Referring to a new version of Microsoft’s Windows OS, code-named Longhorn, which has been delayed, he asked his audience, "What does the competitive landscape look like out there? Our competition was going to be out there in 2004, but they’ve slipped until 2005, and some people tell us it will actually be in 2006."
Beta versions of Panther were released last Monday. The company says that the final version of the new OS will be available by the end of the year for $129.
Apple also used the developer conference stage to unveil Panther Server, a UNIX-based server OS built on top of the Jaguar code. Panther Server adds an Automatic Setup feature for multiple servers. Apple expects to deliver the new server OS by the end of the year for about $500 for a 10-client edition and about $1,000 for an unlimited-client edition.
Judging by the sheer delight with which he made the announcement, the highlight of this year’s show for Jobs was probably the unveiling of Apple’s new 64-bit desktop machine, the Power Mac G5. Based on the long-awaited 64-bit PowerPC 970 processor from IBM, the G5 desktop features a 1 GHz front-side bus and supports up to 8GB of memory. The new systems utilize 400 MHz 128-bit DDR SDRAM, PCI-X, AGP 8X Pro graphics and dual Serial ATA hard drive interfaces.
The Power Mac G5 is the first PC with 64-bit microprocessor. (AMD’s Athlon 64 isn’t due until September, so Apple got there first.) The IBM-developed chip is based on an architecture previously used only in servers. The company plans to ship three models of the G5 in August: a 1.6-gigahertz model ($1,999) a 1.8-gigahertz model ($2,399), and a model with dual 2.0-gigahertz microprocessors ($2,999).
Jobs offered attendees a spectacular debut of a new FireWire Webcam called iSight, which features full-motion video at 640x480, and a beta version of iChat 2, an audio- and video-capable instant messaging program called iChat AV. Jobs called iChat "video conferencing for the rest of us," and used it for a video conference with Apple’s newest board member, former Vice President Al Gore. "This is going to be a great, great thing, no question about it," said Gore, whose face appeared on the auditorium’s big screen during the iChat session with Jobs. Gore spoke from a site at UCLA.
An estimated 3,800 developers attended this year’s conference.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached