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8/7/2006
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Apple's Jobs Unveils Xeon-Based Systems, Talks Up Next Mac OS

The Mac Pro and Xserve, introduced at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, signal Apple's completed transition to Intel. The upgraded Mac operating system, code-named Leopard, will offer improved animation and backup and recovery capabilities.

In an announcement that marked the completion of Apple's shift to Intel-based processors, CEO Steve Jobs on Monday introduced new Apple desktop and server computers--the Mac Pro and an updated Xserve--based on two dual-core 64-bit Intel Xeon processors.

"Our transition's complete," Jobs proclaimed.

The Mac Pro is available today at speeds up to 3.0 GHz. It features 4 Mbytes of shared L2 cache, up to 16 Gbytes of 667 MHz DDR2 memory, and independent 1.33 GHz front-side buses. Because the Xeon processor requires less cooling hardware than the G5 chips Apple used in previous models, the Mac Pro has more space for peripherals inside its enclosure. It's up to twice as fast as the Power Mac G5 Quad using industry standard benchmarks, and from 1.4 to 1.8 times as fast using popular media creation applications.

The Mac Pro comes with room for four Serial ATA hard drives and two optical drives. The standard prebuilt configuration with two 2.66 GHz dual-core Xeons is priced at $2,499.

The Xserve 1U server will be available in October, starting at $2,999, and also features quad Xeon processors, ranging from 2.0 GHz to 3.0 GHz. It will support up to 32 Gbytes of 667 MHz DDR2 ECC FB-DIMM memory. It can support up to 2.25 Tbytes of storage and consumes as little as 65 watts of power.

Speaking at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Jobs also demonstrated Mac OS X 10.5, known as "Leopard," the next commercial release of Apple's operating system, which the company plans to ship next spring.

Job arrived on stage following a video message from comedian John Hodgman, currently featured in Apple's TV commercials, ridiculing Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system.

After reviewing Apple's operating system and hardware transitions, Jobs took a stab at his longtime rival. "This is what we've been doing for the last five years," he said. "What has our competitor been doing for the last five years?"

Copying Apple, Jobs and his co-presenters asserted. "If you can't innovate, I guess you just imitate," said Bertrand Serlet, Apple's SVP of software engineering. One of the Mac OS X Leopard banners at the developers conference read, "Introducing Vista 2.0."

Apple isn't yet ready to reveal some of its innovations. "There are some top-secret features that we're not going to show you right now," Jobs said.

But Jobs and his colleagues did detail a handful of highlights in Mac OS X Leopard. These include: fully native support for 64-bit processing that's compatible with today's 32-bit applications; inclusion of updated versions of Apple applications that currently ship only with specific Mac hardware, such as Front Row and Photo Booth; a new animation technology layer called Core Animation that simplifies the creation of visual effects; improved Spotlight searching; enhancements to Apple's Universal Access technology for those with sensory impairments; and improvements to Apple's Mail and iCal applications.

Perhaps the most compelling new feature is called Time Machine. It's a visually driven automatic file backup and recovery system. According to Scott Forstall, VP of platform experience for Apple, only 26% of Apple customers regularly back up their data, and only 4% have an automated system to do so.

Another intriguing feature of Mac OS X Leopard is called Web Clips. It allows a user to select any area of a Web page, such as a Web cam window or live data feed, and turn the selection into an Apple Dashboard widget. In effect, it lets users display portions of existing Web pages that they can view on their desktops in real time, without seeing any of the ads on the source page.

Noting that Apple had shipped 1.33 million Macs during its last quarter, the best ever for the company in terms of Mac sales, Jobs said, "We're gaining market share."

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