September 11, 2000 6:00 PM PDT

Expo promises beta of OS X, rumors of new laptops

The OS X revolution will not be televised--nor, for that matter, will it be Webcast.

Apple Computer chief executive Steve Jobs has promised to unveil the beta, or test, version of the long-awaited operating system Wednesday morning during a keynote address at Apple Expo 2000 in Paris. Jobs may also unveil new laptops, but Macintosh fans not in range of the Eiffel Tower will have to be creative if they want to find out what Jobs is saying.

Jobs' speech is not being broadcast over the Internet, and it is unclear how soon Apple will update its Web site. Resourceful Mac fans will undoubtedly have a network of message boards to get the word out long before the sun rises in the United States. Jobs will deliver his speech at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Paris (1 a.m. PT).

Besides missing the speech, it also remains unclear when or how people outside of Paris will be able to get their hands on the new operating system. Apple representatives will not say how the OS X beta will be distributed. Jobs announced that the demo version would appear at Apple Expo 2000 during his keynote in late August at the Seybold Seminars publishing trade show in San Francisco.

The new operating system, which features a liquid-like user interface called Aqua and an open-source core, has been eagerly awaited by Apple fans for some time.

In January, Apple promised that Mac OS X would go on sale as a shrink-wrapped product by this summer and would be bundled on computers by early 2001. In May, however, Jobs said that the company would instead offer a public beta, or test version, of the OS this summer and follow it with a commercial release by January 2001. Typically, Apple has not charged for beta versions of its software. Apple maintains that the revised timetable does not constitute a delay.

Last year, Apple delayed OS X from late 1999 to early 2000.

Although the release of the OS X beta is the known item on Jobs' agenda, the Apple leader could well pull up the curtain on other items. Apple updated all its desktop computers in July at Macworld, but its iBook laptop line has not been updated since February when Apple added the faster iBook Special Edition. Also, the entry-level iBooks come in the tangerine and blueberry colors now obsolete in the iMac line.

One Apple dealer contacted last week said that stocks of the iBook as well as some PowerBook models were running low and that those available were coming from distributors rather than from Apple itself. A similar supply pattern preceded the revamped iMac line in July.

Apple could also update other titles in its software lineup, including its QuickTime streaming media program. Apple representatives declined to comment on any product introductions beyond OS X.

If the iBook does appear, it could include features such as a faster processor, a Firewire port and a DVD drive. Those details were reported on the Internet by "worker bee," an anonymous poster that Apple claims to have identified as an ex-employee that leaked company trade secrets.

One thing not likely to occur during Jobs' keynote is a once-rumored protest. Anonymous Mac fans have said they planned to interrupt the keynote to voice a laundry list of complaints but are said to have called off the action in favor of direct talks with Apple, according to reports on various Macintosh message boards.

 

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