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6/11/2007
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Apple Demos Leopard Before iPhone Debut

Steve Jobs teased the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference crowd with cool features of the upcoming OS and smartphone, even though they are well acquainted with the script.

Steve Jobs on Monday pulled the curtain further up on Apple's plans for its upcoming Macintosh operating system, known as Leopard, as well as its hotly anticipated iPhone.

In true form, the Apple CEO reviewed both past performances of the company's existing products, as well as hinted at future features during his keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. More than 5,000 attendees are expected to spend the week pouring over 159 sessions and 94 hands-on labs. Jobs spent the majority of the presentation reviewing the sixth major release of its Mac OS X platform. Also known as Leopard, the $129 upgrade is expected to be available in October. Jobs also reminded the crowd that Apple's iPhone will go on sale on June 29.

Many of the features in Leopard and the iPhone have been demonstrated, both by Jobs since first hint of their existence, and also by Apple, which has been touring key U.S. cities in the past 6 months touting the features and opportunities for software developers.

Of major note:

Developers hoping to score a free iPhone at the show were disappointed to learn that Apple's strategy for third-party software on the smartphone will be based mainly on Apple's Safari Web Browser and not so much on its native operating system, which Apple still says is a full-running version of Mac OS X, minus some of the larger applications.

Jobs explained that this approach would allow for improved Web 2.0 and Ajax software to be built for the iPhone without the need for a software development kit (SDK) and without having to worry about broken upgrades or heavy distribution. Several developers expressed disappointment after the keynote that Apple was not allowing for more casual development to occur at the OS level.

Mac OS X Leopard is expected to contain 300 new features not found in the latest version, Mac OS X Tiger. Some of the features revealed this week include a new desktop look and feel, a new Finder (Apple's version of the Start menu), and a preview application called Quick Look, which all take advantage of Apple's OpenGL-infused Core Animation software.

Leopard will also highlight new discovery and networking technology that Apple is using to promote its .Mac hosted service. Jobs demonstrated a feature called Back to My Mac, which coordinates Internet protocol addresses via a user's .Mac account to allow file transfers and content sharing.

Apple said it will release and distribute beta versions of its Safari Web browser for the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems starting this week. The software, which will be distributed using Apple's iTunes music player, will allow non-Macintosh users to browse the Web in Apple style. The Mac-influenced browser holds a slim 4% user share of the total surfing traffic, which according to Jobs could be more of a star if fewer people used Mozilla's Firefox (15% market share) and Microsoft's Internet Explorer (78% market share).

Two computer game software companies -- Electronic Arts (EA) and ID Software -- announced they are increasing efforts to bring more of their games back to the Macintosh platform. EA co-founder and chief creative officer Bing Gordon noted that his company would sell Mac-compatible versions of Command and Conquer 3, Battlefield 2142, Need For Speed Carbon, and Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix in July and two 2008 sports titles -- Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour -- in August. ID Software owner and chief technical officer John Carmack revealed a Mac-compatible graphics engine. The developer of Quake and other games said a Mac-related announcement would be coming in time for the E3 conference later this year.

Jobs also highlighted Apple's relationship with Intel by inviting its CEO, Paul Otellini, to commemorate the development of Intel-based Macs. The two men hinted that they were "working on some great stuff for some future products." Jobs later noted that Leopard would be the first full native 64-bit operating system that guaranteed 32-bit compatibility. While all of the new Macintosh computers are running Intel x86 chips, it's not known yet how compatible Leopard will be with older Apple machines running a G5 or G4 processor.

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