Apple presented the forthcoming version of Mac OS X (code-named Jaguar), offered new software tools, and announced that a rack-mount server is on its way at WWDC 2002 (the Worldwide Developer’s Conference) yesterday.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered a keynote speech to open the session at the San Jose Convention Center. He presented the next OS X release, code-named “Jaguar,” and new software that will ship with the OS. Jaguar is set for release late this summer.

Jaguar should be the operating system that developers focus on from now on – as Apple has stopped developing on OS 9 internally, Jobs said.

“Please join me in a moment of silence as we remember an old friend – Mac OS 9,” Jobs said during his keynote. “It isn’t dead for our customers yet, but it’s dead for you.”

Jobs put OS 9, represented by a giant software package, to rest in a black coffin that rose up from underneath the stage.

To complement Jaguar, Jobs unveiled new email software; iChat (an instant-messaging application); technology for identifying different computing devices on a network; and a handwriting-recognition application, called ‘Inkwell’.

He also said the company will announce a rack-based server next week.

Rack ’em up “On May 14th, we are introducing our first dedicated server in a long time,” Jobs said. “It’s a rack-mount server, but I can’t give you many details.” Jobs would not release any technical specifications for the server, saying users will need to wait until next week. A partial picture of the server shown at the keynote revealed a silver and black design, suggesting Apple’s penchant for stylish hardware.

Apple will roll out the Inkwell handwriting-recognition application with the Jaguar release. This software prompts a virtual notepad to appear on the screen, and turns text entered with a pen into a font recognized by the computer. The Inkwell technology works across applications, allowing a user to change the text in a headline of a Photoshop document or to write several paragraphs in Microsoft Word, for example.

Jobs also revealed that Apple would ship QuickTime 6, which includes MPEG-4 support, with Jaguar.

Apple has also updated features in its email software, introducing better spam-filtering, and improved tools for categorizing messages. The company complemented this with its new iChat software for instant-messaging. Mac users will be able to use their Mac.com screen names as identification for chatting, and the Apple messaging product interoperates with AOL’s popular AIM instant messaging program.

“It’s the first time AOL has let anyone under the tent,” Jobs said. AOL has been fighting to prevent other providers of instant messaging software from interoperating with AIM.

Share and share alike One of the most interesting additions to Jaguar will be Apple’s Rendezvous technology that lets computers and devices share data with each other. In a demonstration, Jobs’ desktop computer was able to see and play all of the songs on a laptop several feet away. As soon as the laptop was turned on, it used Rendezvous to tell the desktop it was present and then used a wireless connection to let the computers share music files. The technology also makes it possible for computers to share files with a printer or handheld device such as Apple’s iPod MP3 player.

Apple will push for Rendezvous to become an industry standard, Jobs said. The technology is reminiscent of Sun’s Jini software, which has been billed as a way for computers to ‘announce’ their presence on a network and share data.

Jobs also demonstrated the Quartz Extreme middleware feature for working with 2D, 3D, and video images. Apple decided to handle many imaging-related tasks directly on the graphics-card, and “free up the CPU” to work on other jobs. During the presentation, Apple showed several 3D objects rotating over 2D pictures – with video running in the background. The software appeared to run smoothly at every step.

“We think we’re at least two years ahead of the other guys here; maybe further,” Jobs said.

Apple has also added accessibility features to Jaguar to help users with disabilities. The OS will include a zoom tool for making text appear larger on the screen, and a feature that reads text aloud when a cursor passes over it. Jobs admitted the text-to-voice technology could be improved, however, as the voice sounded jerky in demonstrations here.

“We’re in the market for some great text-to-speech technology,” he quipped.