Apple Set to Ship Leopard October 26

Apple has finally set a date for the next release of its Mac OS X operating system, said to include some 300 new features.

Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" will go on sale through Apple retail stores and resellers on October 26 at 6:00pm local time. Additionally, the company will accept pre-orders for the new OS beginning Tuesday.

Compared to previous releases, Leopard has taken a little longer for Apple to ship. Since the first consumer version of Mac OS X in March 2001, the company has more or less shipped a new version every year.

The first update, 10.1 arrived in September 2001, while 10.2 came in August 2002. This was followed by 10.3 in September 2003. For the current version, 10.4 "Tiger; it took 19 months for it to appear, which it did in April 2005.

Leopard will have taken the company two and a half years to produce. Jobs has said previously that the company post-Tiger will slow down the update schedule to a new version once every 18 months or so to focus on more expansive updates.

"Leopard is the best upgrade we've ever released," CEO Steve Jobs said. ""And everyone gets the 'Ultimate' version, packed with all the new innovative features, for just $129."

Among the new features is a redesigned dock, the first update to that feature since Mac OS X 10.3; an updated Finder application, and Spotlight searches could now include any networked computer. Finder also now can preview files without having to open them.

A backup application called Time Machine allows consumers to easily backup their Macs. Mail has also received a face lift, and now includes stationery designs and automatic detection of specific types of data, allowing users to easily add information to iCal, Address Book, and other applications.

iChat has received an update that allows participants to share videos, presentations, files, or photos. Photo Booth also has new features including new effects and capabilities.

Boot Camp will be brought out of beta, allowing Windows to be run natively on the Mac. Parental controls have also been strengthened to allow more control over what kids may do online.

Apple said that those who buy new Macs between October 1 and 26 are eligible for a free upgrade to the new OS by only paying a $9.95 shipping and handling fee for the disc.

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