As expected, Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs used his keynote address Wednesday at Apple Expo Paris to announce the availability of the public beta version of Mac OS X. Jobs also introduced new additions to the company's iBook line of portable computers, and announced a faster graphics card option for the company's G4 desktop range.
The public beta version of Mac OS X will go on sale Wednesday, Job said. It ships on a single CD disc containing English, French and German-language versions of the operating system.
While many software developers make their beta releases available for free download, Apple is charging US$29.99 for the disc in the US, £24.95 in the UK, 249 francs in France or 79 marks in Germany.
The final release, Mac OS X version 1.0 will go on sale early next year, Jobs added.
Jobs had first promised the beta release during his Aug. 29 speech at the Seybold publishing conference in San Francisco.
Among the new features in the public beta release are a full implementation of Java 2, which takes advantage of Apple's new Aqua user interface design, OpenGL 3D graphics, and support for symmetric multiprocessing to take advantage of the new dual-processor desktop G4s announced in July.
Power management for portable computers in the beta release was already "spectacular," said Jobs. Whereas an iBook running MacOS 9 will take between 8 and 22 seconds, depending on the state of the network connection, to wake up from sleep (a power-saving mode in which many of the computer's circuits are shut down), running MacOS X it will wake up in around one second - "About as long as it takes to open the lid," said Jobs.
New iBooks were also the order of the day.
The entry-level iBook will be upgraded to include a FireWire (IEEE 1394) high-speed data port, a faster 366MHz G3 processor, 64MB of memory, a 10GB hard disk, a 24x CD, a Rage Mobility 128 graphics card and bundled iMovie software. It will be available in the US and Europe from Wednesday in Indigo blue - one of the four coluors added to the iMac range on July 19 - and an acid-green shade Jobs called Key Lime. The latter will only be available through Apple's online store - an announcement greeted with jeers by some sections of the audience that otherwise gave Jobs a hero's welcome.
The iBook will cost £1,249 pounds in the UK.
The previous iBook SE (special edition) was widely criticized for offering only a small increase in processor speed over the standard model and no other extras, for a substantially higher price, but the new iBook SE, available Wednesday, will include a DVD drive and a 466MHz G3 processor in addition to the features of the iBook, for £1,499.
"We would love to sell them even cheaper, if you guys could help get the Euro up a bit," Jobs said, referring to the recent slide in the value of the Euro, to which the franc and mark exchange rates are tied, against the US dollar.
Jobs and graphics-card supplier ATI seemed to have made up after falling out when ATI prematurely released details of new Apple products before MacWorld in July. Apple's vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller joined Jobs on stage to race ATI's Rage 128 graphics card, fitted as standard in Apple's desktop computers, against the new Radeon card, available from Wednesday on computers bought through Apple's online store as a £80 option.
While Microsoft Corp. is the company that many Macintosh users love to hate, Jobs urged his audience to support the company - particularly the "few hundred people at Microsoft who love the Mac and who work night and day to make the Mac version of Microsoft Office the best." (At the end of last year, Microsoft employed 34,571 people across all its divisions, including 14,433 in research and development, according to Microsoft figures.)
Microsoft Office for Macintosh 2001 (Office:Mac 2001) will be "broadly available in Europe in November, some places earlier, some later," according to Kevin Browne, general manager of Microsoft's Macintosh business unit, who joined Jobs on the stage.
Browne demonstrated Entourage, a replacement for Microsoft Outlook that will be available "only on the Macintosh," and new features for Word and PowerPoint, including the ability to manage the overall appearance of documents (including color schemes and type faces) using a page layout "palette," and to convert PowerPoint presentations into Apple's cross-platform QuickTime movie-file format for distribution to PC users.
In a nod to Apple's famous industrial design, the new Microsoft Office will be packaged in a curvy, translucent plastic box available - that phrase again - "only on the Macintosh."
At the end of the presentation, buses were waiting to take the audience across Paris to AppleExpo, where exhibitors had worked through the night to clear up after faulty plumbing flooded the show floor. "Well, something had to leak," Jobs joked.