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Hancock: Apple making real headway

Apple's chief technologist says the company is making significant progress on its new operating systems.

NEW YORK--PC Expo attendees are mostly Windows users. But that didn't stop Apple Computer's chief technologist, Ellen Hancock, from preaching the Mac OS gospel here today.

Hancock, Apple's executive vice president of advanced technology, emphasized that the company is on schedule to deliver a developer release of Rhapsody, the company's next-generation operating system, this summer.

Although the PC Expo conference floor was packed today, attendance at Hancock's speech was sparse, perhaps reflecting the Windows orientation of the crowd.

Apple has been promising to regain its technological dominance since it bought Next Software in December. While that message is not new, Hancock used her speech today to demonstrate that Apple is making measurable progress on its operating systems.

Hancock first displayed Mac OS 8, an interim update to the company's existing operating system due next month. This update will add several user interface improvements and performance enhancements. For example, Mac OS 8 will allow users to easily hide windows on the sides of their computer screens to reduce desktop clutter.

"While Windows 95 has more of the look and feel of the Mac, the user interface is more of an Apple hallmark," Hancock said. "And we are about to raise the bar."

 Highlights from Ellen Hancock's keynote at PC Expo
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Mac OS 8 will also include some rudimentary multitasking capabilities that will allow a user to, for example, copy two files at the same time. That should narrow the technological gap slightly between Windows 95 and the current Mac, but Rhapsody is the operating system Apple is really counting on.

Hancock offered evidence that the company has been making significant progress in completing the first developer release of Rhapsody. Today, she demonstrated several key technologies running on the new platform, including QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime, and Java, as well as the first support for drag-and-drop Java functions.

Rhapsody is based on technology acquired last year from Next, the software company owned by Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. The system will have full multithreading and multitasking support, features that are considered critical for server operating systems. It will also include many of the multimedia and interface technologies that Apple itself has already developed.

Hancock said Apple is working with Sun Microsystems to deliver new versions of the Java development kit on the Mac OS at the same time that the Windows version ships. In the past, Java releases for the Mac OS have often lagged behind the Windows releases.

"We are working very closely with Sun to achieve simultaneous releases, and we believe that will happen by the end of the year," Hancock said.