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Apple sets OS 8.5 release date

The date has been set for the release of the newest version of the Macintosh operating system, as Apple also prepares a low-cost PowerBook.

The date has been set for the release of the newest version of the Macintosh operating system, as Apple Computer also prepares to roll out a low-cost PowerBook portable computer early next month.

Apple will unveil an updated version of its operating system software, Mac OS 8.5, with special launch events to be held by resellers on October 17, according to industry sources.

An Apple spokesperson would not comment on the release date.

The upgrade from OS 8.1 will feature vastly improved performance in some areas, such as saving files over a network, which Apple says will be up to three times faster. The updated OS also will include improved file and Internet search functions, as demonstrated at recent industry trade shows such as Seybold SF.

The launch of Mac OS 8.5, formerly code-named Allegro, will be the first major upgrade to the Mac OS since July 1997, when OS 8.0 was launched. OS 8.1 was launched in January. The OS 8.5 upgrade was first scheduled for release this July, but its ship date was subsequently pushed back to September and then to October.

But first, Apple tomorrow will release a new PowerBook, according to sources at several resellers. Although Apple recently boasted that it had 14.1-inch displays as standard equipment on all its notebooks, the company will offer a PowerBook with a 12.1-inch active matrix display--but at a correspondingly lower price.

The system will be priced at $2,299 and will come with the 233-MHz PowerPC 750 chip with "backside" cache for improved performance, unlike the older "cacheless" 233-MHz models with 12.1-inch dual scan displays that are currently priced at $1,999.

"As long as they have the parts, they'll sell it, but there's no telling how long going that's to be," one industry source said.

Meanwhile, customers could still find themselves waiting for the 300-MHz PowerPC PowerBook models, including those who ordered the preceding high-end model with the 292-MHz PowerPC processor that was discontinued in early September, sources at several major resellers report.

Availability of the 266-MHz PowerBooks has improved over previous mid-range models, but overall, supply has not met demand, resellers report.

Apple interim chief executive Steve Jobs said at the beginning of the month that the company should be able to fulfill demand by the end of September.