'Panther' Set for October 24 Launch

Apple is gearing up to launch the next version of its Mac OS X operating system, code-named Panther, later this month - just days before Microsoft debuts the first public build of Longhorn.

The new release, which brings Mac OS X to version 10.3, will be available at 8pm on October 24. Apple retail stores nationwide will hold special events to celebrate Panther's long-awaited arrival.

Three days after Panther jumps on the scene, Microsoft will issue to Professional Developers Conference attendees a development build of Longhorn, the next release of Windows expected in 2006.

Although Longhorn won't reach beta status until 2004, developers and industry watchers have waited anxiously for the first official look at Microsoft next-generation operating system following numerous leaks of alpha builds over the past year.

Likewise, Apple has worked hard to squash bugs and finalize interface elements in Panther, as development builds have come fast and furious in the last month. Build 7b85 is expected to serve as the final release of the Panther client, with 7b86 as the server edition.

Mac OS X Server version 10.3, dubbed Panther Server, is designed to run in server environments -- namely on Apple's Xserve -- and will debut alongside the Panther client.

Apple is touting 150 new features in Panther, including a redesigned Finder and fast user switching. A feature called Exposé allows Panther users to instantly see all open windows at once and slide all windows off the screen for quick desktop access.

The much-hyped second version of iChat will also ship with Panther, complete with video conferencing support and buddy lists - a critical feature missing in the initial release. However, buddies still cannot be viewed as groups in a single window, unlike most of iChat's rival IM clients. iChat AV 2.0 will be available to Jaguar users who opt to skip the 10.3 upgrade for $29.95 USD.

Panther will retail for $129 USD, with a "Family Pack" five-user license available for $199 USD. All Power Mac G5 customers can receive a Panther upgrade for $19.95 USD to cover shipping and handling.

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