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MacOS X to ship 24 March

But pre-loading and most apps won't happen until the summer

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Updated Apple's next-generation operating system, MacOS X, will ship on 24 March, one month later than expected.

However, the Mac maker won't begin bundling the OS until July, when it will be shipped by default on its hardware.

Interestingly, that timeframe ties in very nicely with Apple's New York MacWorld Expo hardware release schedule and Motorola's volume shipment schedule for its PowerPC G4 Plus chip. We'd be very surprised if Apple doesn't bring back dual-processor configurations to the top of the Power Mac G4 line - ie. machines capable of harnessing MacOS X's multi-processing facilities - around that time.

It will also mark the arrival of most X-oriented applications, be they new ones or ports of existing Mac apps. Apple expects some to appear sooner, but it was clear from CEO Steve Jobs' MacWorld Expo keynote that the company isn't expecting too many of the 1200-odd programs written to take advantage of X's advanced OS features to appear before the summer.

As for the OS itself, the final release will move further toward the well-established MacOS way of doing things, with the return of the Apple menu, missing from the MacOS X Public Beta and previous developer releases. That said, it doesn't appear as rich as MacOS 9's Apple menu, being limited to some common system commands - Shutdown and Sleep, for example - and lists of recently opened documents and applications.

Apple still sees the Dock as the focus of X's user interface. It has added pop-up, hierarchical content menus, a key feature of the MacOS 9 Apple menu, to Docked folders. Apple is clearly trying to ease users into the Dock by forcing them to move their Apple menu aliases and apps down to the bottom of the screen.

The Dock also has pop-ups for application settings, allowing it to operate like MacOS 9's Control Strip - the monitor settings pop-up lists available screen resolutions and screen bit depth, for example. Again, Apple is addressing X's lack of key MacOS interface components and drawing users to the Dock into the bargain.

Apple has also simplified the Finder app to make it operate more like the current Finder, though some of the 'new' features added, such as a multi-Window mode, are present in the Public Beta, albeit not as easily accessible as they will be in the 1.0 release. The font selection panel has been simplified too.

MacOS X will ship for $129, said Jobs. ®

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