Apple previewed Mac OS X version 10.4, code-named “Tiger”, during the opening keynote address of its Worldwide Developers Conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center.

Tiger is the fifth major version of Mac OS X. It will ship in the first half of 2005 at a cost of £99, including VAT. Apple claims that the forthcoming version has more than 150 “breakthrough” new features, including: Spotlight, a “revolutionary” new way to instantly find any file, document or information created by any application on the Mac; Safari RSS, a new version of Apple’s Web browser that incorporates instant access to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) data feeds on the web; Dashboard, a “dazzling” new way to instantly access a new collection of accessory “Widgets”; and a new version of Apple’s iChat instant-messaging client with the industry’s first multi-person audio and video conferencing in a 3D interface.

“With OS X Apple has become, once again, the industry innovator in operating systems and Tiger will further widen the gap,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, who led the keynote. “Others are now following OS X’s taillights, and Tiger will make it even harder for them to ever catch up.”

In the Spotlight

Spotlight (pictured) is Apple’s new “lightning fast” way to find any file, document or information created by any application on the Mac. Much like users can instantly find songs in iTunes by their name, artist or album, Spotlight enables users to instantly find just about anything – including emails, presentations, images, appointments and Microsoft Office documents – then automatically organizes and displays the results by kind, time or people. Spotlight technology also powers Smart Folders in the Finder, Smart Mailboxes in Mail and Smart Groups in Address Book that work like Smart Playlists in iTunes to automatically keep a user's information organized and updated.

Up the RSS

Safari RSS, a new version of Apple’s acclaimed Web browser uses the emerging RSS Internet standard to provide instant access to the most current information from leading sites such as The New York Times, BusinessWeek and the BBC. Safari RSS automatically discovers an RSS-enabled site and displays a special icon, which when pressed instantly transforms Safari into a fully featured RSS reader displaying the discovered RSS feed. Apple says that with Safari RSS, users can easily create their own personal news clipping service with up to the minute information from several RSS feeds merged into one easy-to-read interface.

At a Dash

Dashboard offers users “instant access” to a new class of accessory applications called “Widgets.” Built on Apple’s Expose technology introduced in Panther, Dashboard provides “fingertip access” to everyday tools and information such as stock quotes, webcams, calendars and calculators. Tiger includes several Widgets and provides a rich developer environment for developers to extend Dashboard with third party Widgets.

Multi-person iChats

iChat in Tiger supports the new industry-standard H.264 video codec for dramatically better picture quality with no increase in bandwidth. In addition, the new iChat adds multi-way audio and video conferencing, so that users can audio conference with up to 10 people and video conference with up to three other people using a “stunning” new 3D interface.

Additional new Tiger features

Core Image and Core Video provide the foundation for new image and video processing applications, building on the success of Core Audio, which is “leading the next generation of innovative audio application development”.

QuickTime support for the next-generation MPEG-4 video codec H.264 delivers “incredible scalability” across the entire bandwidth spectrum, from 3G mobile media to High Definition broadcast and beyond;

Tiger can natively run 64-bit processes for database, engineering and scientific applications to take advantage of the increased performance unleashed when accessing massive amounts of memory while still running side-by-side with existing 32-bit applications;

.Mac Sync using a completely new Sync engine in Tiger ensures that .Mac subscribers can synchronize their contacts, bookmarks, email preferences and calendar across multiple machines;

Automator is an “innovative and easy-to-use” application that automates simple, complex, or repetitive tasks without requiring the user to write scripts;

“Major advances” to the open standards Unix-based foundation including an updated state-of-the-art kernel with improved SMP scalability, 64-bit virtual memory, modernized network services and Xgrid, Apple's distributed computing software;

Improved Windows compatibility that uses open standards-based networking technologies to make it even easier for Mac OS X users to access a Windows-based home directory and authenticate against Microsoft’s Active Directory; and

Xcode 2, the latest version of Apple’s suite of developer tools, designed to make it “even easier and faster” to build innovative Mac OS X applications.