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Mac, Windows updates on the way

Both Apple and Microsoft are expected to release tweaks to their operating systems next month, in the form of Mac OS X 10.2 and Windows XP Service Pack 1.

Apple Computer and Microsoft on Tuesday took steps toward releasing important operating system updates.

Both companies are expected to release updates to their operating systems next month. Apple plans to release Mac OS X 10.2, and Microsoft is readying Windows XP Service Pack 1, the first collection of bug fixes and updates to the operating system released last October.

Testers working with the releases said the companies are close to issuing near-final versions of the operating systems.

The latest Mac OS X 10.2 testing version is the first released to software developers since Apple's World Wide Developers' conference in May. At the time, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said his company was discontinuing the older Mac OS 9.

The new release of OS X includes a CD that contains tools for developing Mac OS X 10.2 software applications. Apple had been distributing two CDs throughout the testing process--one containing the operating system and another with additional software, such as printer drivers.

The release of a final developer version is typically a sign that Apple has almost completed working on an operating system. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has included a developer CD with the two earlier versions of OS X.

An Apple representative acknowledged the company had sent a new test release of the operating system to software developers on Tuesday.

As first reported by CNET, Apple is wrapping up final work on Mac OS X 10.2, code-named Jaguar, more than a month ahead of schedule. During last week's Macworld Expo keynote address, Jobs acknowledged, "We are early." Two new applications designed for Jaguar, iCal and iSync, won't ship until September, another indication of the operating system's leap ahead of schedule.

Apple claims that Mac OS X 10.2 contains more than 150 new features, something it plans to charge for. Unlike version 10.1, which was free for customers living nearby a Mac dealer or Apple retail store, Jaguar will cost $129. Even people buying new Macs between last week's keynote and the August release will have to shell out $19.95 if they want an upgrade disc.

Microsoft, meanwhile, on Tuesday issued a new Windows XP service pack to testers, closely following a test version released last week. Microsoft has been issuing about one test release to PC makers and developers a week, sources said. The changes between new testing versions have reduced dramatically, sources said.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment about the latest release. Company sources reported that the service pack is on track for an August launch. Microsoft earlier had said it planned a late-summer release of the service pack.

The XP service pack includes extensive changes mandated by Microsoft's antitrust settlement with the Justice Department and nine of 18 states. As mandated by the settlement, which a federal judge has yet to approve, Microsoft must give PC makers and consumers more control over so-called middleware, such as Web browsers and instant messaging.

A new XP control contained in the service pack allows PC makers and users of the software to hide access to five Microsoft middleware programs--Internet Explorer, Windows Messenger, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player and Microsoft's version of the Java Virtual Machine--but not remove any software code.

Microsoft does not charge for the service pack, although there could be a fee for those people requesting that the update be sent to them on CD. Customarily, Microsoft offers service packs for free download from the Web. But Service Pack 1 could burden people with slower dial-up connects. The latest test version of the service pack is a 124MB file.