Apple Lets Loose 'Tiger' OS

Solution providers say Macintosh users will want to get their claws on "Tiger," the latest version of Apple's operating system, which is slated to ship late Friday.

Russell Redman, Contributor

April 28, 2005

5 Min Read

Solution providers say Macintosh users will want to get their claws on "Tiger," the latest version of Apple's operating system.

Slated for release late Friday, the Mac OS X 10.4 client brings more than 200 new features, notably Spotlight, Apple's new desktop search technology. The server version of Tiger also is due to ship Friday, according to Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple.

Spotlight searches the contents and metadata of files to help users quickly find anything stored on their Mac--such as e-mails, contacts, appointments, images, PDFs and documents (including Microsoft Office documents)--and then organizes and displays the results. Built into the Mac OS X core, Spotlight also updates results whenever files change.

"It's the holy grail of search on the desktop, and Apple got there first," said Kevin Langdon, owner of Crywolf Computers, a San Diego-based Apple reseller, and director of the Apple Specialists Marketing Cooperative.

Apple said it has incorporated Spotlight into Tiger's Mail, Address Book, Finder and System Preferences applications, and third-party applications that leverage Spotlight's technology are expected to emerge in the coming months."The search is just awesome. I'm personally thinking of switching my e-mail from [Microsoft] Entourage to Apple Mail, just so I could take advantage of Spotlight," said David Lerner, co-owner of TekServe, a New York-based Apple VAR.

Two other key features of Tiger, Dashboard and Automator, will catch the attention of developers as well as Mac users, according to solution providers.

Based on standard Web technologies such as HTML and JavaScript, Dashboard serves up a menu of desktop accessory applications, dubbed widgets, for speedy access to information like stock quotes, weather, airline flights, units of measure, currency conversions and a phone book. Tiger comes with 14 widgets, and third-party developers can build new widgets that users can add to their Dashboards.

The Automator application allows users to choose from a library of more than 100 automated, repetitive tasks and create customized workflows, which can be saved and shared. Developers also can expand the library by designing more tasks and workflows.

"That's really a big feature. You'll be able to add your own modules that allow you to automate your workflow," said W. Ian Blanton, director of on-site consulting at Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based Apple specialist. "What's really impressive [with Tiger] is that Apple isn't just coming out with some new features where you say, 'Oh, this is really cool.' They're providing something for developers to sink their teeth into and actually improve their products with."

Still, Tiger won't disappoint for those seeking something "cool," VARs said. For example, an upgraded iChat instant-message and audio/video conferencing application--designed to work in tandem with Apple's iSight Webcam--lets users hold audio conferences with up to 10 people and video conferences with up to four people in a 3D virtual conference room. Participants in a video conference appear on-screen just as if they were seated around a table, with their reflections even showing in the tabletop. The new iChat also brings improved picture quality via support of the new H.264 video codec.

"Probably the [Tiger] feature we get the most questions about is the three-person iChat. That seems to be the most anticipated feature among our customers," Crywolf's Langdon said. Other highlights of Tiger include an updated Safari Web browser with a built-in RSS reader; Mail 2, a new version of OS X's mail application; QuickTime 7, the latest version of Apple's multimedia player; iCal 2, an upgraded calendar application; and Font Book 2, an enhanced font management utility that now supports libraries for installing fonts on the system or network.

Apple, too, sharpened Unix-based OS X under the hood. Tiger brings native 64-bit application support; Core Image and Core Video engines to support new image and video processing applications; improved Windows compatibility so OS X users can more easily access a Windows-based home directory and authenticate against Microsoft's Active Directory;advances to OS X's Unix foundation; Xgrid distributed computing software; and Xcode 2, a new version of Apple's developer tools suite for OS X.

"We work a lot with video professionals, so a lot of people are really looking forward to the core image and graphics engines that have been rewritten for Motion [Apple's motion-graphics design software] and the better performance they'll get out of that," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based Apple VAR.

Tiger represents Apple's third major OS upgrade since August 2002, following the release of Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" and Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther." As with those versions, Tiger is being sold only as a full version at $129 for a single license and $199 for a five-license "family" pack. Apple solution providers said some customers have expressed dismay that each year Apple has asked them to shell out the full price to have the latest Mac OS, instead of offering current OS X licensees a cheaper upgrade version.

But Ken Bereskin, senior director of Mac OS X product marketing at Apple, said that Tiger--like its predecessors--is worth it. And Apple VARs said the Mac faithful eventually will reach the same conclusion.

"When you take a look at the features [of Tiger], this is probably the most valuable upgrade you could ever think of applying to your Mac, with ground-breaking technologies like Spotlight and Dashboard, an all-new Safari browser and all of these improvements to other system applications, as well as an integrated dictionary and multiperson video conferencing," Bereskin said, adding that volume and maintenance pricing is available for larger deployments. "For $129, we think it's a bargain."

Langdon agreed. "We think it's going to be bigger than Panther was," he said. "It's a bigger deal."

Crywolf, an authorized Apple training center, in the past few months has seen a huge demand for the new Tiger client and server courses, including certification, Langdon said. Such interest spells good news in the near term for the Mac user base, he added.

"I think that over the next six months, as Tiger really gets out there, that [Apple's user base] is going to grow exponentially," Langdon said. "I definitely see more people that aren't traditional Mac installed-base customers."

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