SAN JOSE, CALIF. (05/15/2000) - The retail version of Apple Computer Inc.'s new operating system may be six months behind schedule, but that didn't stop Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs from singing its praises on the opening day of the company's annual developer conference here today.
Jobs announced that the fourth and final developer release of Mac OS X is available today, which should allow software developers to finish porting their software applications to the new OS. He also showed off features in Mac OS X that he said will improve multimedia playback and boost the performance and usability of Apple's computers for its users.
"Mac OS X is to our software what the G4 and iMac are to our hardware," Jobs said in a keynote speech at the start of the weeklong show. "They are taking things to the next level in performance and capability, but at the same time making them simpler and more beautiful."
Apple in January had pledged to deliver a "shrink-wrapped" version of Mac OS X by the middle of this year, and to begin pre-installing the new OS its on computers in January 2001. Plans now call for the company to release a "beta" version of Mac OS X at the middle of the year, with the software on track to be pre-installed on Apple's computers in January, Jobs said.
An Apple official acknowledged that in the software industry, "shrink-wrapped" generally refers to the final release of a product that is available in stores for purchase, whereas a beta product typically is an unfinished release that users can download from the Web to try out for free.
However, the official maintained that Apple's apparent change in plans doesn't mean that its delivery schedule has slipped. The software that will be released mid-year is the same software product that Apple had said it would release all along -- the company simply decided to call it a "beta" rather than "shrink-wrapped," said Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide product marketing.
"This is not a case where we're taking a slip in the schedule and dressing up with a fancy name," Schiller said. It is not clear yet whether users will have to pay for the beta version or how it will be distributed, he added.
The developer version released today, Developer Preview 4, includes a Mac OS X version of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer 5.0 and support for Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java 2 Platform, Jobs said.
He also highlighted new graphical interface features in the developer release that are likely to be included in the product that is shipped to consumers.
They included improvements to the dock, a Macintosh equivalent of the tool bar on a Windows PC, that are designed to make it easier to keep track of documents and applications in use.
Jobs also showed how users will also be able to drag Internet addresses from the URL field of the Web browser into the dock, creating a link that will take them directly to that Web page in the future, relaunching the browser if necessary.
Despite the delay in delivering OS X to the public, developers have much to cheer about, according to Jobs.
For starters, the Apple CEO announced a dramatic price cut in the price of its WebObjects application development software. Starting today developers can purchase the WebObjects developer tools and a high-end deployment license for unlimited usage on a single server for US$699. The same software sold together was previously priced at $50,000, according to Jobs.
Apple will ship a version of WebObjects later this year that will be "completely written in Java," allowing it to work with any server software that supports Sun Microsystems Inc.'s programming language, Jobs said.
Thanks in part to the company's popular iMac desktop computer, Apple's share of the personal computer market is growing, he said. Its share of the U.S. PC market stood at 5.1 percent in 1999, up from 4.5 percent in the previous year, Jobs said. Its revenue and unit shipments outgrew those of Dell Computer Corp., Gateway 2000 Inc. and Compaq Computer Corp. in each company's most recent financial quarter, according to Jobs.
Developer attendance at the conference is also up, he said, from 2,563 a year ago to an estimated 3,579 this week.
"We've seen some serious growth," Jobs said.
To keep the momentum going, Apple in the middle of the year plans to launch a new version of QuickTime, its multimedia playback software. The new QuickTime will support MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video, which should improve playback quality, as well as the latest version of Macromedia Inc.'s Web animation technology, Flash 4.
The new QuickTime will also include an enhanced QuickTime VR (Virtual Reality) playback function that provides users with a new way to navigate through three dimensional (3-D) images on the Web. In a demonstration, Jobs showed how the software allows users to pan up and down as well as left and right when viewing an image.
Jobs also announced that Alias WaveFront will port Maya, its high-end 3-D animation and visual effects software that was used in the making of Star Wars:
Episode 1, to the Macintosh platform, which drew a big cheer from developers here. The Macintosh version was demonstrated here today and will be released at the end of the year, a representative from Alias said.
Apple's shares on the Nasdaq dropped a little more than 6 percent today to close at $101.00, down $6.62 from Friday's close.
Apple, in Cupertino, California, can be reached at +1-408-996-1010 or online at http://www.apple.com/.