Apple Unveils New Leopard OS

Apple Computer’s new OS, Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) appeared for the first time in public Monday.

It’s the sixth version of Apple’s Vista-vaunting OS to debut so far, and includes a range of new easy-to-use features, including Time Machine, Apple’s new user-focused backup and retrieval utility.

Leopard includes what Apple terms "industry-first advancements" in Mail and iChat. Mail now features Stationery, Notes and To Dos, while iChat includes Photo Booth-style effects (the ability to "place" yourself in any photo or video as the backdrop for your chat) and live presentations of iPhoto slideshows, Keynote presentations and videos.

"Breakthrough features like Time Machine and Spaces are good examples of how Mac OS X leads the industry in operating system innovation," said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. "While Microsoft tries to copy the version of OS X we shipped a few years ago, we’re leaping ahead again with Leopard."

Time Machine automatically backs up everything on the Mac to an external hard drive or Mac OS X Server. In the event a file is lost, users can search back using an intuitive, time-based visual display to find and then instantly restore the file -- with just one click. Time Machine can restore anything, from a single file or photo to everything on a Mac.

Another new feature, Spaces, is a productivity-focused extension of the concept of a user identity. As explained by Apple, it is an "intuitive new way to group applications required for a given task into a ’space,’ then instantly switch between different spaces to bring up the specific applications required for that given task."

The company explains: "Users can get a bird’s-eye view of all their Spaces and choose where they want to go next with just one keystroke or click of a mouse."

iChat has taken another step forward. It can now place user-selected images in the chat background, and users can also place videos and use iChat Screen Sharing to share their desktops with others, boosting project collaboration.

Another new feature, iChat Theater, lets users share an iPhoto slide show, a QuickTime movie or a Keynote presentation within an iChat window.

Leopard’s Mail offers new advancements too, such as premade e-mail templates, note-taking, To Do lists (which integrate with iCal), RSS news in Mail and Smart Mailboxes for topic-focused message-watching.

iCal 3 adds group calendaring capabilities, event drop box and standards-based CalDAV support.

However, Apple isn’t completely focused on delivering consumer applications. The new OS will offer native 64-bit support. This will allow applications to exploit 64-bit processing while maintaining full performance and compatibility for existing 32-bit OS X applications and drivers.

The company also promises "enhancements" to Boot Camp, Apple’s innovative technology, previewed as a public beta in April 2006, that makes possible to run Windows natively on Intel-based Macs.

The company also promises more accurate and faster Spotlight searching. In its new iteration, Spotlight will also allow users to search across network-mounted folders on other machines.

Additional new features in Mac OS X 10.5 include: a new Movies Dashboard widget for movie times and Web Clip for clipping any part of a webpage as a live widget; new parental controls including curfews, time limits and remote administration; Core Animation, a new graphics technology that makes it easy to create stunning visual effects and animations; and major enhancements in Universal Access, including improvements in VoiceOver, Apple’s built-in screen reader.

Users can also look forward to security enhancements including antiphishing protection and new development tools.

For developers, Apple is offering full 64-bit support in Xcode; DashCode, an easy way to create new Dashboard widgets without writing a line of code; and Xray, for optimizing application performance.

By Jonny Evans, Macworld.co.uk

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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