Apple has begun delivering the alpha version of the last revision to Mac OS 9 to be developed before the launch of OS X.

Code-named Fortissimo, the upgrade is expected soon. Reports from within the developer community hint at a few new features, including easier navigation through the hard drive, and improved support for USB-connected cameras.

OS X The upgrade is billed as the last release of an Apple OS built on existing architecture before the launch of the new-look Mac OS X.

Apple continues to promise a public beta release of Mac OS X before the end of this year, with the full product launch expected at Macworld Expo, San Francisco in January.

Experienced Apple-watchers say the most likely date for the beta release is next week, at Seybold or in September at Apple Expo, Paris. A public-beta release at either of these events would leave time for Apple to receive and act on feedback before launching the full product next year.