No surprises as Jobs talks up Apple product road map
SAN JOSE, CALIF (IDG) -- At its developers' conference here Monday, Apple Computer released a preview version of the Mac OS X client and also delivered new notebook computers, an update to the Mac OS, and updates to some of its existing technologies.
The developer conference itself showed a 43 percent attendance increase over 1998's event, and interim CEO Steve Jobs said more than 3,100 Macintosh applications have been announced since last year's conference.
"You've given us the time to get this turned around and get the volumes back up, and we deeply appreciate it," Jobs said.
Jobs then delivered what he termed a "boring" OS road map.
"I'm hoping our software strategies are boring to you, because they're not changing every year," Jobs said. "That is our strategy."
One analyst said Jobs stayed true to his word, which is a welcome change for Apple.
"They didn't say much that was news," said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst at Dataquest, in San Jose, Calif. "They just delivered stuff we knew they were going to do."
Only one developer appeared onstage, Dragon Systems CEO Janet Baker, who announced the company would release its speech-recognition software for Macintosh by the end of the year.
Jobs gave the crowd an update on Apple's profitability, and said that over the past year the company has gone from having 22 days of inventory in its warehouse to one day at present. The company also announced Sears would start selling its consumer desktop iMac systems.
New PowerBooks come in two models, a 333-MHz and a 400-MHz. The new PowerBooks weigh 5.9 pounds, down from 7.8 pounds, and battery life has been extended to 5 hours per battery, up from 3.5 hours. The machine is also 20 percent thinner.
Jobs said the system was two-to-three times faster than any Wintel notebook on the market. The pre-configured versions of the notebooks feature a 400-MHz G3 processor, 14.1-inch monitor, a digital video disk drive, 6GB hard drive, and 56Kbps modem, priced at $3,499. A 333-MHz version with a CD-ROM drive, 4GB hard drive, and the same features otherwise costs $2,499.
Apple also announced that its OpenGL three-dimensional graphics technology and the new Macintosh Runtime for Java 2.1.2 can both be downloaded Monday from the company's Web site. Jobs said it was the fastest Java ever running on the Mac OS, benchmarked at five times faster than the previous version.
The company had hoped to best Microsoft's Java implementation, but their recently released Java virtual machine runs faster than the Apple release.
"We're going to keep going until we're faster than those guys," Jobs promised.
Jobs also railed against the "server tax" charged by companies such as RealNetworks for its streaming-media implementations.
"Our competitor gives away the player, but they charge you big bucks if you want to broadcast anything," Jobs said.
Apple recently released the QuickTime streaming server software as part of its open-source initiative.
"We are going to lead this movement, and the horse we're going to ride is open protocols and open-source server software," Jobs said.
Mac OS 8.6, also available free now to Mac OS 8.5 users, boasts a longer battery life; updated Sherlock, AppleScript and ColorSync technologies; and the new Java engine.
With the new Mac OS alone, battery life for notebook users will increase anywhere from 25 percent to 37 percent, Jobs said.
Jobs then unveiled Sonata, the next version of the Mac OS scheduled to ship this fall. The product has more than 50 new features, of which Jobs demonstrated the capability for multiple users to retain their own workspace and default settings (which the company had previously sold separately to education markets) and the next-generation of its Sherlock search engine.
The product has support for the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, and a Keychain control panel that tracks usernames and passwords across different Web sites and servers.
The new OS also has built-in file encryption, and users can log in to the system using voice recognition.
Jobs then took the wraps off of the Mac OS X client software, which developers received after the keynote. The OS builds on the open-source Darwin technologies (FreeBSD, Mach kernel), which provides memory protection, pre-emptive multitasking, and other new features. The OS also includes a new imaging and windowing layer called Quartz.
Quartz can natively display Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) files and has built-in compositing and anti-aliasing, Jobs said.
"PDF is the richest content on the Web, and we're going to view it native," Jobs said.
Dataquest's Le Tocq said Apple's sweeping support of PDF was payback for Adobe porting its applications to Mac OS X.
"This sounds like Adobe's pound of flesh to me," Le Tocq said.
On top of the previous layers, there are three application areas: Classic, which runs current Mac OS applications with none of the new features; Carbon, which runs previous Mac OS applications tuned for Mac OS X, which will benefit from new features; and Cocoa, the former yellow box environment, which features both Objective C and Java environments.
Jobs also demonstrated a new Carbon-based Finder and a Cocoa-based e-mail client that will be included with Mac OS X. The interface for the Finder is similar to the one developed at NeXT, Jobs' previous company that Apple acquired.
Jobs said a second developer preview of Mac OS X will ship this fall, with the product release scheduled for early 2000.
"We are now in the phase of development where the foundational stuff is behind us," Jobs said.
Jeff Walsh is an InfoWorld senior writer.
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