Apple's Tiger unleashed in San Francisco

Hundreds of Mac fans line up outside Apple's downtown store in hopes of being first to get their paws on Mac OS X 10.4.

SAN FRANCISCO--Mac fans let out a collective roar Friday night, with thousands of eager shoppers turning out at Apple Computer stores across the globe to scoop up Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, the latest version of the company's operating system.

At Apple's downtown store here, where Tiger went on sale at 6 p.m. PDT, 200 or so people lined up for more than a block. Among them was Austin Liu, a freelance Web designer and student. Liu, who admits to being "caught up in the whole 'Cult of Mac'," said there is something undeniably cool about all things Apple.

"Microsoft could never get a crowd like this," he said. Liu took a swipe at Microsoft, joking that far fewer will show up "when Microsoft finally releases Longhorn or Longtime or whatever it is," referring to the next version of Windows, due out next year.

Library supervisor A.J. Real turned out with two friends to snag a family pack of Tiger, a $199 version of Tiger that can be used on up to five computers in a household. Single copies of the OS, which features improved searching and other features, sell for $129. Real and friends found themselves about 35 people back in the line, which began forming around 4 p.m.--two hours before Tiger went on sale.

"We got here at 3," Real said. "Then we got hungry."

By the time the doors opened, the line stretched for a block down Stockton Street, past storefronts for Benetton, Fossil, Armani Exchange, and Crate and Barrel.

At the front of that line was Mario Ortiz, a graphic designer for the Gap.

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"I hope I win something," said Ortiz, who was trying to win a PowerBook or iPod, one of several prizes Apple was handing out to mark the big event. Ortiz had ordered a copy of the new OS on, which was offering a $30 rebate, but canceled the order to get his hands on a copy sooner.

James Rice, a freelance educator and part-time Starbucks employee, said he already ordered his copy of Tiger, but turned out, 12-inch PowerBook in tow, just for "the spectacle of it all."

Not everyone was impressed.

"What is a tiger?" asked one woman as she passed by the crowd. When someone informed her it was computer software, she shook her head and scurried past.

In addition to those lined up to buy the OS, a fair throng of gawkers gathered to see what all the fuss was about. Pizza maker Ivan Ochoa said he likes his Windows-based computer, but probably wouldn't line up to get a new version of the OS.

"It's like they are waiting for their favorite singer," he said, looking at the long line of Mac faithfuls.

The Apple stores were not the only place to grab hold of Tiger. A block away, amid some balloons but far less fanfare, CompUSA also put the new OS on sale, offering a $30 discount if buyers spent $400 on other purchases.

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