At the company's Worldwide Developer Conference here, Jobs said the cat-themed operating system is being shown off fairly early in its development cycle, but said it will ship in the first half of 2005--more than a year before Microsoft's next major release of Windows is expected to arrive.
In particular, Jobs pointed to Spotlight--a new systemwide search engine that will allow Mac users to quickly search and find any file--whether it's an e-mail, an application file or a contact entry.
The technology borrows from the search engine used in, but is able to pore through the contents and hidden data of many types of files.
"It finds stuff that you would never be able to find by hand," he said.
Tiger will sell for $129 when it is released next year and will be officially known as Mac OS X version 10.4 Tiger.
Jobs also showed off several more of the 150 or so features Tiger will add, including a new "Dashboard" to manage small applications, a revamped scripting language called "Automator" and improvements to the iChat AV video conferencing and instant-messaging program.
The update to iChat will let Mac users have an audio conference with up to 10 participants and a video session with up to three other people.
The Dashboard feature is similar in some respects to a feature Microsoft has previewed in Longhorn and is also reminiscent of the desk accessory programs that were part of the early Mac OS. The feature brings up several small programs with a single click, including things like sticky notes, an iTunes remote or a Web camera. Like the Exposé feature that's part of Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, the Dashboard appears and disappears with a single keystroke.
Jobs also introduced improved 20-inch and 23-inch monitors, as well as a new 30-inch LCD, all with new aluminum cases. The 30-inch flat-panel monitor will set buyers back more than $3,000, plus the cost of a high-end graphics card.
"It's definitely something to drool over for a while," said Nick Uchida, a software quality assurance engineer for Symantec, who admits he probably won't be in the market for one at home, nor is he likely to be outfitted with the display at work.
The monitor, with a 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution and a $3,299 price tag, is slated to ship in August. It will require a GeForce 6800 Ultra, a high-end video card that retails for $599.
While the 30-inch model will work only with Macs, Jobs also showed off updates to Apple's 20- and 23-inch displays that can also be used on Windows-based PCs. Sporting aluminum cases with built-in Firewire and USB ports, the monitors will ship in July and be priced at $1,299 and $1,999, respectively.
Though Jobs didn't talk about it, Apple also announced some details about a server version of Tiger as well as a new version of the company's Xcode developer tools. The server version of Tiger will feature a Weblog server as well as the ability to act as an iChat server allowing companies to keep their instant messaging conversations private. Apple plans to charge $499 for a 10-client license of Mac OS X Server and $999 for an unlimited-client version.
The Tiger incarnation of Mac OS X Server will also include the 1.0 version of Xgrid, Apple's clustering software, and broader support for 64-bit applications.
Several attendees said they had no problem with the fact that Tiger won't be released until next year, especially since developers here will get a software development kit to start working with the code.
Conference attendee Will Barton said he is actually pleased Apple is slowing its release cycle a bit, saying a new version each year is more than many companies can handle.
"It's been difficult to keep up with," said Barton, who is part of the loose-knit OpenDarwin effort, which tries to work with and improve Darwin, the open-source kernel at the core of Mac OS X.