Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the release of Mac OS X public beta to a packed audience during his keynote speech in Paris this morning.

He told the crowd: "Mac OS X is the future of the Mac." He also revealed that "pretty much every one of Apple’s developers are carbonizing their applications".

Mac OS X beta costs £24.95 and is available from the Apple Store.

Unhappy Apple’s decision to charge for the upgrade, rather than make it freely downloadable caused much grumbling and a few boos in the crowd. However, reports say Jobs had turned the crowd around by the end of his keynote.

Jobs said: "The point of Mac OS X is to simplify and make the Macintosh more powerful."

The beta release offers symmetric multiprocessing when running on the new dual-processor Power Mac G4’s. The OS includes Apple’s new Quartz 2D graphics engine, based on the Internet standard Portable Document Format. Apple promises that Quartz will provide stunning graphics and broad font-support. Java 2 support is also built in to Mac OS X.

Durable In respect of Mac OS X’s multiprocessing and Java 2 support, Jobs announced: "The Mac now has the underpinnings of a super-modern kernel that makes the Mac super-robust."

OpenGL, Apple’s standard for 3D graphics and gaming is included. The user interface (Aqua) has been made adjustable for professional designers – it can be switched to a neutral Graphite-shade with one command.

The Dock has also been revised since the last public demonstration, it can now be set to shrink, or even disappear completely. Additionally, Mac OS X can wake a PowerBook up from Sleep mode within one second, according to Apple.

Introducing Mail Mac OS X Public Beta comes with a selection of bundled applications, including Apple’s new Mail client, and new versions of QuickTime Player and Sherlock. A carbonized version of Internet Explorer is also included, as is a built-in MP3 player. The MP3 player can also play standard audio CDs.

Apple has added an OS X area to its Web site. It contains in-depth information and regular updates on third-party applications, tips and tricks, and technical-support.

Mac OS X Public Beta will run on any Power Macintosh with a G3 or G4 processor. It requires 128MB memory. Mac OS X version 1 will be released in early 2001.

Let us know Jobs ended his keynote announcement with a request for public feedback. He said: "We want feedback so we can make Mac OS X better and better and better."

He also launched a revised iBook range, and announced that ATI’s Radeon graphics accelerator is available as a build to order option via the Apple Store.

Since the show opened, reports claim huge queues have developed at the Apple stand, as attendees gather to collect their beta OS.