Cupertino (CA) – In a world that may have already witnessed the last of the classic Bill Gates keynotes, the man who put tech conference keynotes on the world’s radar screens, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, isn’t fading away anytime soon. As Apple confirmed this morning, Jobs will indeed preview the next version of the Mac OS X operating system, v. 10.5 “Leopard,” during the company’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference on 7 August.
The foundation ingredient of any Jobs keynote is buzz. When the subject of the conference is hardware, Apple can afford to keep completely mum about Jobs’ subject matter – sometimes hiding it behind a red velvet curtain – and let the buzz generate itself. When the subject is software, as is the case with WWDC, the buzz often needs a little kick-start. Yes, Leopard is the subject, but beyond that, you may as well borrow the red velvet curtain used in the invitations to last year’s dramatically successful video iPod rollout.
So the question Macintosh developers are asking – as if on cue – is, what’s behind the curtain? It’s a safe bet that Jobs will want to make available as many Vista-like features as possible before Microsoft rolls out its next operating system to the general public next year. One feature that’s the subject of speculation by professional Apple watchers, including the folks at LoopRumors.com, is the advent of animated desktop icons. Vista users will reportedly have more animated icons available – specifically, users of systems that qualify for DirectX 10 – and although that’s more eye candy than functionality, it’s something Microsoft would have and Apple wouldn’t unless Mac OS X rolls it out soon.
Others are speculating about an elevated role for virtualization in the new system, perhaps for operating other Mac OS X systems remotely, though perhaps also for running Windows applications in a mode more convenient than Apple’s current Boot Camp provision. We may also see more Desktop-based functionality for the iPod, and some are wondering whether Jobs believes the time is ripe for Apple to preview its little personal area network system that evidence from the US Patent and Trademark Office shows the company has worked on. With Vista being released to corporate clients in October, the opportunity for Jobs to upstage his longtime rival seems just too tempting to pass up. Mac developers expect something big, yet again.