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OS X Tiger Seeks Enterprise Adoption

By Blane Warrene MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 6, 2004 9:34 AM PT

Apple unearthed details of the next major release of "Tiger," the upcoming iteration of its Unix-based OS X operating system at the start of the company-sponsored Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco last week. Tiger is the fifth major update to OS X since its debut in March 2001 and is expected to become available in early 2005.

OS X Tiger Seeks Enterprise Adoption

In addition, Apple made available an updated version of its Rendezvous technology for developers. Rendezvous, Apple's network-configuration tool first released in 2002 for OS X, also now offers full compatibility with Java, Windows, Linux and other flavors of Unix.

The Tiger preview and Rendezvous release at WWDC showcased several new features designed to appeal to enterprise users. Tiger also appears to be targeting features expected to be included in Longhorn, the new version of Windows slated for 2006.

Apple plans to maintain current pricing levels with Tiger, presently US$129 for single users and $199 for family five-packs. According to the company, users will be able to purchase Tiger through Apple online and in its retail stores and through Apple authorized resellers once it does become available.

Tiger Specs

Tiger's release will follow the Panther, or 10.3, version of OS X, which according to Ken Bereskin, director of product marketing for OS X, has been Apple's most popular OS to date. Panther accounted for $65 million in software sales in the six months leading up to Apple's second-quarter 2004 earnings announcement.

With over 150 new features, previews of Tiger at the WWDC showcased introductions to OS X that zero in on business users, including a new search and data-association tool called Spotlight, expanded audio and video conferencing capabilities in iChat, and Automater for automating tasks with built-in actions such as the ability to execute Unix shell scripts.

Holding Off the Microsoft Bull

Forrester senior analyst Simon Yates said several of these features are moves in an attempt to protect a core base of users in the enterprise from Longhorn.

"Longhorn, which we expect to enter the enterprise in 2007, will include several new similar features," Yates told MacNewsWorld. "IT managers are standardizing their hardware and software, and Apple is trying to appeal to them and retain share."

Yates advised that today's hardware will not support Longhorn as Microsoft recommends. It will require more expensive investments in PCs -- which might prove to be an opportunity for Apple.

"IT managers are looking for ways to further standardize as they enter a substantial PC refresh cycle. If Apple delivers capability and interoperability, they maybe can hang onto or even gain users in these mixed environments," he added.

Windows and Linux Rendezvous

The release of Rendezvous will enable developers to build network discovery capability into their applications across mixed platform environments. The tool provides auto discovery of networks, services and devices where manual configuration is not available.

Yates said that this cross-pollination of technology to alternate operating systems is a move to ensure that Mac users and their non-Mac peers can coexist.

"For those who cannot or do not run Windows in the workplace, they need to be able to interact with other people in the company transparently," he added.

Spotlight on the Search Model

Spotlight expands the basic local and network file-system search capabilities of OS X through a metadata content index. Metadata are hidden pieces of data within documents, images, audio and video and other file types that include attributes such as author, resolution and edit time, among other things.

When users search, results can include up to 19 file formats and can include address book contacts, e-mail messages, documents, presentations and QuickTime files in a single window.

Bereskin told MacNewsWorld that the genesis for Spotlight came from Apple's team of iTunes engineers' development of search technology for iTunes.

"In building functionality capable of tens of thousands of music files in iTunes, we discovered we were on to something," Bereskin said. "We found in tests we could leverage this to rapidly search through hundreds of gigabytes and hundreds of thousands of files."

The Battle for OS Functionality

For his part, Yates said Apple and Microsoft are attempting to offer a multipronged approach to user searches in an attempt to simplify finding data. These new functionalities blur the distinction between the types of searches user perform and how they associate data.

"Longhorn will also have a similar search and file association feature based on their new file system, WinFS, that will allow users to search and also associate files and data with groups, such as by project name," Yates said.

According to Yates, the battle to provide leading-edge functionality to retain and acquire new adopters of the two platforms is the news here.

"There are three kinds of searches: local drive, regional or network and on the Internet and OS providers want to have the corner on the search market instead of third-party tools," Yates went on to say.

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