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Apple's new version of Mac OS X - 10.5.7, released on Wednesday - may have a longer life than previously thought. Cupertino has also announced that the next version, Snow Leopard, won't debut at the company's upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) as many observers had hoped.

Instead, Apple will distribute to the June 8-12 gathering of developers "a final Developer Preview release." And that hand-out won't be hosted by the ailing Steve Jobs. The WWDC keynote will be presented by Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Product Marketing, who also took the stage at January's Macworld Expo - Apple's last appearance at that annual soirée.

The absence of Jobs, although a disappointment to his hordes of fans, is not a surprise. The schedule for his reappearance as active CEO has been consistent since he first stepped away and left the reins in the hands of COO Tim Cook.

As recently as Apple's second-quarter financial results conference call on April 22nd, CFO Peter Oppenheimer gave the company's stock answer to the inevitable "Where's Steve?" question when he said, "We look forward to Steve returning to Apple at the end of June."

And June 8th is not "the end of June."

Snow Leopard's failure to show up at WWDC is also a disappointment rather than a surprise. The current version of Mac OS X, Leopard, was discussed in depth at the June 2007 WWDC but didn't ship until late October. The release of the version previous to that, Tiger, was also not timed to coincide with any Apple event. It appeared in April of 2005.

Bertrand Serlet, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, will join Schiller at WWDC to demo what he calls - in typical Apple understated prose - "the incredible progress we’ve made on Snow Leopard." ®

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