Apple dumps big cat OS X nicknames, zips lips on price and release timetable

Fall launch suggests reports of shanghaied engineers were on the mark

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While Apple introduced new MacBook Air ultra-light laptops that boasted nearly twice the battery life of previous models -- thanks to the new notebooks' use of Intel's latest Core processors, code named "Haswell" -- Apple's baked a host of under-the-hood technologies into Mavericks, including app, memory and disk management features that Federighi promised would result in longer battery life and better performance. (Apple has published an overview of Mavericks' core technologies in a PDF document available from its website.)

Gottheil agreed that Mavericks emphasized what he called the "computing fundamentals" of battery life and performance. "It looks like they have a critical mass of new features and changes," he said. "Overall, [Mavericks] looks really good."

Mavericks will also come with a new edition of Apple's Safari browser, Version 7, that promises better performance; adds several new features, including a sidebar that displays bookmarks; and shifts to a model pioneered by Google's Chrome where each tab is a separate OS process for better stability and security.

The big Mavericks omissions Monday were price and availability. Apple simply ignored the former and vaguely described the latter as "this fall."

Apple charged $19.99 last year for the Mountain Lion upgrade, a 33% discount from the two prior versions, and it's safe to assume that same price -- or that as the maximum -- for Mavericks, if only to give CEO Tim Cook future bragging rights on OS adoption.

"Thirty-five percent of our users are using the latest version, are using Mountain Lion," Cook boasted yesterday. "That compares with Windows 8, which is struggling to get to five [percent]."

According to Web analytics company Net Applications, Mountain Lion's numbers are actually higher than Cook reported: Last month, Mountain Lion powered 42% of all Macs that went online. Windows 8, meanwhile, accounted for about 4.7% of all copies of Windows.

A release date is harder to estimate, but clues from the last two upgrades, Lion and Mountain Lion, may help. In 2012, Apple offered registered developers their first look at OS X Mountain Lion on Feb. 16, then 161 days later shipped the upgrade. 2011's schedule was similar, but with 147 days between OS X Lion's developer preview and release.

Plugging in those time spans -- 147 and 161 days -- results in a Mavericks retail launch somewhere between Nov. 4 and Nov. 18.

Apple may beat that -- the also-delayed OS Leopard launched Oct. 26, 2007, still the record for a release late in a year -- and could feel pressure to do so because of the looming holiday sales season.

Also lacking yesterday was any information on the traditional free upgrade program Apple runs for customers who buy a new Mac with a soon-to-be-supplanted version of OS X. That program, called "Up-To-Date," usually kicks off when Apple narrows a release date to a specific month.

Computerworld's Ken Mingis chats with Keith Shaw about his impression of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, in which the company announced iOS 7, a new desktop OS, and new MacBook Air and Mac Pro models.

This article, Apple dumps big cat OS X nicknames, zips lips on price and release timetable, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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