Online Mac rumour sites are buzzing with news that Apple's OS X development team is on target to ship Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) by the end of the year, as the company has consistently said it would.
Numerous reports claim the OS has now reached Gold Master status, with some suggesting that the company has begun CD duplication.
Speculation now begins regarding when Apple will ship the new OS, with some saying Panther could ship as soon as the end of this month – just in time for Thanksgiving in November.
The fourth major release of Mac OS X in four years, Panther has "more than 100 breakthrough new features", said Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaking to the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The company has consistently promised to ship the new OS "before the end of the year."
New features include a new Finder; Exposé, a "revolutionary" way to instantly see all open windows at once; and iChat AV, a complete desktop video-conferencing solution for business, education and consumers.
At the conference, Jobs told developers: "With Jaguar, we moved ahead of the competition. With Panther, we're widening the gap."
Speaking in Paris last month, Jobs said that Apple is aiming to achieve ten million OS X users "before too long". According to Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson, there are currently seven million regular OS X users.
Jobs believes Panther will be "as big if not bigger than Jaguar," he told his Parisian keynote crowd. The operating system is expected to retail for £99.
News that Apple is preparing to publish its OS offers a marked contrast to developments in Microsoft's camp. That company's new OS upgrade, code-named Longhorn, is not expected to ship until 2005. Microsoft will offer some details on its new OS next week at its Professional Developer's Conference.