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Apple NDAs Leopard

Apple claims it wants to keep secret from Microsoft's photocopiers

Apple the other day started pushing out a preview version of its sixth-generation operating system, Leopard, otherwise known as Mac OS X 10.5, to developers under non-disclosure expecting them to keep mum about a number of tantalizing new features that Apple claims it wants to keep secret from Microsoft's photocopiers.

Never a great innovator, Microsoft for all its mighty R&D budget is merely a Google and Apple cloner, according to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Well, we'll watch to see how that NDA works. Apple has taken several people to court lately for publicly airing other of its prospective products before release.

Leopard was previously due in late '06, early '07. Now Apple's saying next spring, in other words anywhere from March 21 to June 21, which if the pundits are right and Vista slips again could make it a horserace as to which gets out first.

Both will obviously miss the Christmas shopping season.

Credit Suisse thinks that the new schedule will benefit Apple, which has put out multiple revs of the Mac OS while Microsoft diddled with Vista, by letting it capitalize on the Vista launch. The brokerage is expecting Leopard to do better than Tiger, the last Mac OS release, which pulled in over $100 million in OS sales.

Apple is currently pushing to pass 5% of the US PC market by units and in Q2 captured 7.8% of US notebooks, according to IDC.

At its Worldwide Developer Conference this week Apple was willing to highlight a few of Leopard's new features - even position it as "Vista 2.0" to pull Microsoft's nose and play for market share - but the spotlight fell on the fact that Apple has now completed its hysterically smooth transition from PowerPC to Intel chips in seven months - 210 days - faster than originally forecast - with the announcement of a Woodcrest-based workstation and server.

Hints of Leopard's prowess and the end of the great migration trek weren't enough to polish Apple's position any on Wall Street however. The market has been jittery since the company indicated late last week that its backdating exposure runs deeper than thought. It may have to restate years' worth of results and there are worries it could lose Jobs, its Pied Piper. The problem also extends to Pixar, Jobs' other company, recently traded to Disney, though Jobs doesn't appear to be implicated personally.

Apple, which hasn't said much about the crisis to begin with, says it won't comment further on the backdating issue until it finishes an internal investigation and so it didn't mention the elephant in the room at the show.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the widening options mess, going back to the late 90s at least, involves awards of millions of shares to ex-Apple CFO Fred Anderson, ex-software chief Avie Tevanian, ex-hardware chief Jon Rubinstein and current COO Tim Cook.

Apple also didn't play to Wall Street's angst by trotting out some compelling new iPod something or other like the rumored iPod phone or updating its existing Intel machines.

So anyway, Woodcrest is the new Intel Xeon chip based on Intel's new Core microarchitecture. Apple has yet to use Intel's other Core chips, Conroe and Merom. Presumably other new boxes are off in the wings.

Apple has put the dual-core Xeon in a new two-processor Mac Pro workstation that is said to deliver twice the performance of the old PowerMac G5. The new Mac Pro, whose standard configuration with 2.66GHz chips has 1GB of memory and a 250MB drive, is immediately available for $2,499, about a thousand bucks cheaper than a comparable Dell or HP machine.

Users can snap in a total of 2TB of direct attached storage, the most ever on a Mac, and it supports two optical drives to simultaneously read and/or write CDs and DVDs.

Customers will have to wait until October to get the new "quad" Xserve, Apple's first Intel server also based on Woodcrest. Apple says it will continue to supply the old system until they're gone and no longer wanted. The new box, which is supposed to offer five times the performance of its predecessor, will sell for the same price as the old.

It can deliver up to four times the I/O bandwidth, up to three times the memory bandwidth and twice the storage bandwidth of the Xserve G5. Like the new workstation, it also runs cooler.

A base 1U rack-mounted Xserver configuration with two 2GHz processors, 1GB of 667MHz DDR2 ECC FB-DIMM RAM, one 80GB 30 Gb/s SATA drive, dual gigE, internal graphics, and three FireWire 800 and two USB 2.0 ports should run $2,999.

Apple calculates that there are a million possible build-to-order configurations. It can be had with 2.66MHz or 3MHz chips, up to 32GB of memory, and up to 2.25TB of storage.

Apple's existing OS, Tiger, has been updated to run 100% native on the machine and its JVM has been improved. Unlike its predecessor the new Xserve will ship with an unlimited client edition of Tiger Server software. Otherwise Tiger Server integrates over a hundred open source projects like Apache and MySQL and ships with the management tools to deploy Mac, Windows and Linux clients.

Apparently Apple's Rosetta translation software, the stuff that moves old Apple code to the Intel hardware, is irrelevant to the server effort. The application software is already 100% native, Apple said.

When Leopard is available, Apple's server unit will offer an iCal group calendaring Server, a wiki server, a Spotlight server that finds content on networked servers and Podcast Producer to automate podcast production and deliver it to the Internet or multimedia-enabled cell phones. The iCal Server will be standards-based for integration with Mozilla's Sunbird, OSAF's Chandler and Microsoft's Outlook.

Leopard is supposed to be facile enough for Xserve to need no day-to-day management, casting it as an alternative to either Windows or Linux and making smaller companies without IT resources a more viable target for basics like file and print and mail. Setup is supposed to take only a few mouse-clicks.

A few of the handy new Leopard features that Apple let slip at the show include widgetry called Time Machine, which - provided the user has a second external drive - will automatically back up all files and Spaces, a way to display and switch between groups of applications organized by task.

Apple, as previously reported, also expects to integrate Boot Camp, its mechanism for running the Windows OS, in Leopard rather than have it freestanding as the Boot Camp beta is now, but it will apparently still work the same way, forcing users to reboot every time they switch.

Bowing to that inevitability, Microsoft has dropped its plans to update its Connectix-acquired Virtual PC software, which does the same thing.

Leopard also includes full native 64-bit support and Dashboard and iChat IM updates, mail clustering, new firewall protection, and Xgrid2 support. It will also support Sun's DTrace open source performance analysis and debugging tool as well as the Ruby on Rail web application framework.

With Mac OS X rich in open source software from FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and the GNU Project, Apple has set up a site to cater to the developer communities specific to the Mac operating system at www.macosforge.com.

This story was originally published in Client/Server News.

More Stories By .NETDJ News Desk

.NETDJ News Desk monitors Microsoft .NET and its related technologies, including Silverlight, to present IT professionals with news, updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards, and insight.

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