US Report: Jobs outlines new OS strategy for the Mac

Outlining a major shift in its software strategy, Apple announced it will combine the existing Mac operating system with the upcoming Rhapsody OS, to be released next year as Mac OS 10.

The announcement is significant because the new operating system could allow existing Macintosh products to be ported to the new OS with little effort, potentially blunting further defection of Mac software makers to other computing platforms.

Mac OS 10 will ship in the third quarter of next year, Apple "interim" CEO Steve Jobs announced today at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California. A beta version will ship to developers in the first quarter. "A lot of people thought this was the future of the Mac OS," Jobs said, as a giant trash can popped up on the screen behind him. Instead he called the OS the company's "crown jewel," saying "this is the most important piece of software we've got."

Rhapsody, the OS acquired when Apple bought Jobs' NeXT Software Inc., will serve as the major technological underpinning of the new OS. But the best of the existing Mac OS 8 will be folded into the system, as well. "10.0 is the biggest leap of the Mac OS since it was first introduced ... but it brings all of us and our apps along with it," Jobs said. Because the new OS dispenses with some 2,000 outdated programming codes, Jobs said most current Macintosh programs will be able to be tweaked to run on OS 10 in just a few weeks' time. "This is a little bit of evolution for a lot of revolution," Jobs said.

Developers from Adobe Systems, Microsoft and Macromedia applauded the changes during the presentation.

Jobs also said the company's software strategy includes developing a faster, more compatible version of Java and adding new features to QuickTime, its multimedia tool. Jobs showed off the upcoming QuickTime, which for the first time will support live streaming over the Internet using a standard called real-time protocol, or RTP. To demonstrate the feature, Jobs streamed live video of himself onto a relatively smooth display on another computer.

He also manipulated slides on the other computer by clicking buttons on his computer while at the same time streaming live video to the machine, a feature that could be used during presentations, he said.

Until now, the company has focused primarily on its hardware, unveiling a new line of computers based on its G3 chips. Just last week, Jobs introduced the new iMac, a $1,300 self-contained consumer machine designed for quick Internet access for home users.

On Monday, Jobs urged developers to create more games for the iMac, saying he hopes to bundle some with the machine when it ships in August. Jobs also unveiled the new G3 PowerBooks last week.

In November, Jobs kicked off the new hardware strategy with the G3 Desktop computers and plans to sell them through the company's new online store. Jobs also is promising a consumer portable machine in the first half of next year.

Analysts said the series of major announcements and new products is just what the company needs to keep customers, developers and investors from defecting. "I think they're managing the installed base tremendously well, better than I've ever seen it," said Gartner Group analyst Kimball Brown.

But Brown said Apple also should look to emerging technology that will fuse computers and TV. "There's a need for a computer kind of thing to control television content. Apple could be there."

Apple was rumoured to be developing some type of computer-based entertainment device, but the company has yet to confirm it. In fact, Jobs said last week Apple would concentrate on just four machines: consumer and professional portables and desktops.

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