Apple Offers Peek at Mac OS X 'Leopard'

At the company's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs provided the first peek at Mac OS X version 10.5, known by the code-name "Leopard." Jokingly calling it Vista 2.0, Jobs said he couldn't reveal all of the new features or else they would be "photocopied."

Major additions to be demoed included full support for 64-bit applications, which was previously handed in the operating system's Unix layer. Apple has now extended 64-bit all the way through the user interface, enabling a fully native 64-bit UI carbon application. 32-bit and 64-bit applications can still run side by side without emulation or translation.

Another new feature is dubbed "Time Machine," which is designed to help users prevent data loss. Only 26 percent of users back up in any fashion, Jobs said, noting that most simply drag files and folders to another drive. Leopard will automatically back up a Mac. If a file is changed, the older version is saved and can be restored at any time.

Files can be previewed without going through a full store, and the entire desktop can "warp" back to a place in time, much like Microsoft offers with its System Restore feature in Windows. Apple says Time Machine works great with Finder, but it is compatible with third party applications as well.

As expected, Apple will also include Boot Camp with Leopard, saying the reaction to the beta release has been positive, racking up 500,000 downloads. Virtual desktops are also on the docket of new features, enabling users to create different "spaces" for clusters of applications to work together.

Spotlight, Apple's search feature it introduced in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, has been improved for Leopard. The feature can search other Macs on a network, and advanced search capabilities have been added to specify file types and other details. Spotlight will also now be pre-populated with recent activity.

Accessibility in Leopard has been completely overhauled, Jobs said. Braille and closed caption support has been added, along with advanced in voice over capabilities.

Apple Mail is additionally receiving a freshening up in Leopard. Jobs said the company has added stationery, notes and to-do lists. Users can now send industry standard HTML mail, which will look the same on any machine. Leopard will add a new "Notes" mailbox in Mail for keeping notes separate.

The to-do list feature in Apple Mail will be tied into other Leopard applications, including iCal and a system-wide to-do tracker. In Dashboard, Apple has added a new "Webclip" button in Safari that enables users to make a widget out of a Web site in just 4 clicks.

Apple's iChat messaging client has finally received a much-needed makeover as well. Leopard adds multiple logins, animated icons, video recording and tabbed chats to the software. A new feature called "iChat Theater" shows slides to family and friends, which users can talk over. Backdrops and video backgrounds are also supported.

"While the current version of OS X Tiger stacks up well against the un-released next generation of Windows called Vista, Leopard shows us what life will look like in the Vista timeframe and once again, Apple has taken a leap over what Microsoft will deliver," commented JupiterResearch vice president Michael Gartenberg.

"Lots of features like iChat and TimeMachine that simply won't be something you can get in Vista," Gartenberg added. "Apple has an interesting opportunity to gain some momentum here. There's also a lot of stuff that Apple didn't talk about just yet, looks like we're going to see more in the weeks and months ahead."

A developer preview of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was provided to WWDC's 4,200 attendees Monday. The new operating system is slated to ship in final form next spring.

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