Apple announced Mac OS X version 10.1 at Seybold yesterday.

The upgrade ships in the UK on Saturday. Existing OS X customers will be able to upgrade for free at participating authorized Apple resellers. The deal is part of Apple's Instant Up-To-Date offer, which is from September 29-October 31, or while stocks last.

UK users will also be able to upgrade through Apple's Mac OS Up-To-Date programme, for a shipping and handling fee of £14.95. Users updating their OS will receive a CD copy of OS X 10.1, updated developer tools and an additional CD containing Mac OS 9.2.1. At retail, the OS costs £99 (inc. VAT).

Apple CEO Steve Jobs appeared on Seybold's keynote stage with Phil Schiller, vice president of worldwide product marketing.

Jobs said: "Mac OS X is now ready for primetime. It's incredibly fast, includes a refined Aqua interface, has unrivalled support for more digital devices than any other operating system on the planet, and best of all - the upgrade is free."

Half-way house He also pinpointed exactly where Apple considers itself to be in its schedule for the release of OS X: "We are halfway through the OS X transition," he said.

"This is a long term strategy, not just a quick release," Schiller said.

Performance has been the focus for the upgrade. Apple claims that "everything" is faster than in previous versions. Applications launch up to three times faster, Aqua menus are five times faster, window re-sizing-speeds have been improved 500 per cent, and file copying is twice as fast as previous versions of Apple's Unixed-based next-generation operating system. Apple claims its testing has shown substantial performance boosts to many other areas of OS X, including start-up, log-in, Classic start-up, OpenGL and Java.

As previewed at Macworld Expo, New York, the Dock can now be repositioned to the bottom, left or right sides of the screen. System icons on the menu bar offer easier access to many functions, including volume control, display settings, date and time and more. The OS X 10.1 also possesses enhanced automatic file extension management capabilities, so it can handle a multitude of file types seamlessly.

Digital-hub aim
Developing its digital-hub vision of the Mac, Apple has built-in support for burning CDs and DVDs. This support has been enhanced with new functionality – the capacity to burn DVDs straight from the desktop on DVD-enabled Macs. Apple has also introduced a new Image Capture application that automatically downloads and enhances images from digital cameras. This application now supports cameras from Canon, Nikon and Kodak. iTunes and iMovie2 are also now included as part of the application.

Mac OS X 10.1 has also been boosted with the inclusion of a new networking client, SMB/CIFS (Server Message Block Protocol/Common Internet File System). This makes it possible for the OS to "connect to virtually any network system", Apple claims. The OS also integrates built-in support for creating and displaying PDF files as well as full Java2 support.

Other new features of 10.1 include: the return of desktop DVD playing and authoring; improved implementation of iDisk; more print drivers built-in for many inkjet and PostScript printers from HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmark and Xerox; updated OpenGL and full support for NVidia's GeForce 3; ColorSync 4.0 support; and substantial improvements to AppleScript.

Sal Soghoian, Apple product manager for AppleScript, revealed the extent of 10.1's improved support for AppleScript: "The company has enabled AppleScript to extend its simple commands to Internet sites that host Web services using a number of industry standards. When a user creates an AppleScript command, the operating system then wraps that in XML (Extensible Markup Language) and sends it out on the Internet."

He added: "A Web service then takes that request and returns an XML-based response, such as a description of weather conditions, which then appears on the user's desktop."

Taking stock Apple has built several similar Web services into the operating system, including a service that delivers real-time stock quotes. The company said it will soon post a directory of all the Web services available though the operating system. FileMaker Pro and Office .X for Mac will also support such AppleSCript-based access to Web services, Apple revealed yesterday.

Ken Bereskin, director of Mac OS X product marketing told IDG News Service: "This is real and shipping today. It's also a technology that you can put in the hands of people to create real solutions."

OS X 10.1 contains much for musicians, providing what Apple calls "the most advanced audio architecture delivering high-resolution 32-bit/96-kHz audio, multi-channel support, low-latency performance, and built-in MIDI".

Mac OS X 10.1 requires a minimum of 128MB of memory and is designed to run on the following Apple products: iMac, iBook, Power Macintosh G3, Power Mac G4, Power Mac G4 Cube, and any PowerBook introduced after May 1998.