Jobs took the wraps off Mac OS X during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. It is the first complete overhaul of Apple's operating system since the first version came out 17 years ago, and Jobs said the new OS will have a similar life span.
"We want something that lasts 15 years," he said.
The new OS will be sold on its own as of Saturday and later will be included on Macintosh computers. A server version will be released next quarter, potentially expanding Apple's market.
The new OS is based on Unix, the same technology at the center of many server operating systems, and adds a new graphical interface. In addition, a feature called Internet Updater will automatically send bug fixes and new features to customers, who will be able to accept or reject the changes.
More than 350 applications for Mac OS X were shipped Wednesday, the company said. A Mac OS X version of iTunes digital jukebox software will be available as a download Saturday on Apple's Web site.
But as previously reported, the initial version of the OS is incomplete. It does not include the ability to burn CDs or record and play DVDs.
These features are coming soon, Jobs promised. CD recording will come in an update next month, and DVD playback will be available sometime in the spring, he said. Apple's OS X version of iDVD, software that lets people burn DVDs, will come out later this spring or early summer.
Putting an operating system together takes time, Jobs said. Companies can wait until everything is perfect or get out early versions and obtain feedback.
"With an OS, only the latter is viable," he said.
Apple came to a crossroads on CD recording a few months ago, Jobs said. The company had to decide whether to have its development teams concentrate on adding a feature into Mac OS X that would let the operating system record CDs on Apple's own CD drives, or to add support for third-party CD burners into Mac OS 9.1, the company's current OS.
Apple chose to add universal recording capabilities to Mac OS 9.1. In addition, DVDs can be played or recorded using Mac OS 9.1.
Apple will include Mac OS 9.1 in the boxes with Mac OS X. But to record CDs or DVDs, people need to shut down a computer running Mac OS X and restart it in the older OS.
The company expects to release this summer an OS X version of Final Cut Pro, a professional video-editing program.
When releasing its Windows operating system, Microsoft often adds new features in subsequent "service packs." However, service packs generally concentrate on bug fixes or add secondary features.
Apple's new OS goes on sale in stores Saturday for $129. Jobs reiterated that Apple will begin preloading OS X on new computers this summer.
He also dismissed reports that Apple has disbanded the development team for its Power Mac G4 Cube.
David Bailey, an analyst at Gerard Klauer Mattison, said earlier this week that he doesn't expect the new OS to immediately benefit Apple's financial picture but said it is important for the company to launch the next-generation operating system.
"Practically and psychologically, it's important to have it out there," Bailey said.