Jobs unleashes Jaguar, new applications

Apple Computer Inc.’s always animated developers received a treat Monday with a sneak peek at the next release of the company’s Mac OS X operating system, new software tools and news that a rack-mount server is on its way.

Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive officer, opened the company’s developer conference here at the San Jose Convention Center, letting users see the next OS X release, code-named “Jaguar,” and the new software that will ship with the OS. Thousands of Apple advocates sprinted toward the stage to get as close to Jobs as possible as he demonstrated Jaguar, which is set for release before September.

Jaguar should be the operating system developers focus on from now on as Apple has stopped developing on OS 9 internally, Jobs said.

“Please join me in a moment of silence as we remember an old friend — Mac OS 9,” Jobs said during his keynote. “It isn’t dead for our customers yet, but it’s dead for you.”

Jobs put OS 9, represented by a giant software package, to rest in a black coffin that rose up from underneath the stage.

To complement Jaguar, Jobs unveiled new e-mail software, an instant messaging application, technology for identifying different computing devices on a network and a handwriting recognition application, called “Inkwell.”

He also said the company will announce a rack server next week.

“On May 14th, we are introducing our first dedicated server in a long time,” Jobs said. “It’s a rack-mount server, but I can’t give you many details.” Jobs would not release any technical specifications for the server, saying users will need to wait until next week. A partial picture of the server shown here revealed a silver and black design, suggesting Apple’s penchant for stylish hardware.

Jaguar was built on top of one of the latest versions of the FreeBSD Unix operating system and will give rise to a host of new software tools.

Apple will roll out a handwriting recognition application called Inkwell with the Jaguar release. This software prompts a virtual notepad to appear on the screen and turns text entered with a pen into a font recognized by the computer. The Inkwell technology works across applications, allowing a user, for example, to change the text in a headline of an Adobe Systems Inc. PhotoShop document or to write several paragraphs in Microsoft Corp.’s Word application.

Jobs also said that Apple will ship the new QuickTime 6 software with support for the MPEG-4 standard used to stream media files with Jaguar.

In addition, Apple has updated features in its e-mail software, including better spam filtering and improved tools for categorizing messages. The company complemented the e-mail advancements with new iChat software for instant messaging. Apple users will be able to use their screen names as identification for chatting, and the Apple messaging product also works with AOL Time Warner Inc.’s popular AIM instant messaging program.

“It’s the first time AOL has let anyone under the tent,” Jobs said. AOL has been battling to prevent some other providers of instant messaging software from interoperating with AIM.

One of the most interesting additions to Jaguar will be Apple’s Rendezvous technology that lets computers and devices share data with each other. In a demonstration, Jobs’ desktop computer was able to see and play all of the songs on a laptop several feet away. As soon as the laptop was turned on, it used Rendezvous to tell the desktop it was present and then used a wireless connection to let the computers share music files. The technology also makes it possible for computers to share files with a printer or handheld device such as Apple’s iPod MP3 player.

Apple will push for Rendezvous to become an industry standard, Jobs said. The technology is reminiscent of Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Jini software, which has been billed as a way for computers to “announce” their presence on a network and share data.

Jobs also demonstrated the Quartz Extreme middleware feature for working with 2-D, 3-D and video images. Apple decided to handle many imaging related tasks directly on the graphics card and “free up the CPU” to work on other jobs. During the presentation, Apple showed several 3-D objects rotating over 2-D pictures with video running in the background, and the software appeared to run smoothly at every step.

“We think we are at least two years ahead of the other guys here, maybe further,” Jobs said.

Apple has also added accessibility features to Jaguar to help users with disabilities. Jaguar will include a zoom tool for making text appear larger on the screen, and a feature that reads text aloud when a cursor passes over it. Jobs admitted the text-to-voice technology could be improved, however, as the voice sounded jerky in demonstrations here.

“We are in the market for some great text-to-speech technology,” he quipped.