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Apple to Delay Release of New Operating System

Software: Company postpones much-anticipated unveiling from summer to January. Shares fall $6.63.


SAN JOSE — Apple Computer Inc. said it will delay the final release of its much-anticipated new operating system from this summer until early next year so that its software vendors and customers have more time to work on it.

The Mac OS X (for operating system 10) is designed to be more visually appealing than the current Windows and Macintosh systems.

But Chief Executive Steve Jobs said Monday that the summer release would now be only a "public beta," or test version. And Jobs backed off his earlier statement that OS X would be installed on all the company's hardware in January. On Monday he said only that the system would be "available" for installation then.

Apple marketing Vice President Phil Schiller declined to say whether this meant that Apple wouldn't make OS X the standard operating system in all its machines in January or whether the company expects some customers to choose the current, familiar operating system instead.

Though Apple executives said the delay was minor, Apple shares fell $6.63 to $101 on Monday, well off their March high of $150.38. Computer chat rooms devoted to Apple matters were filled with comments, with some developers and customers griping about the delay.

Jobs' announcement came in a speech to the annual gathering of software developers working on applications for Apple products, a convention that has doubled in attendance in the last two years as the company returned to profitability.

Since Jobs returned to lead the company he co-founded in 1976, Apple has built a solid following for the curvy, consumer-oriented iMac, the PowerMac desktop and the PowerBook and iBook portables.

The computers have a 5.1% share of the overall market and are especially popular in education and among publishing and other professionals who use video or other graphics heavily.

Catering to that audience, the latest test version of Apple's OS X, given to developers Monday, has enhanced three-dimensional modeling and other visually appealing tweaks.

"In the fit and finish, things have been refined," Schiller said.

The latest version also includes an adaptation of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser.

In the operating system's "Aqua" user interface, windows are easily shrunk to the size of icons. Navigation is akin to that on the Web, with a "back' button returning users to previous screens.

And the system of menus allows users access to a video or music file without their having to call it up to the full screen.

Jobs said the operating system is "the most important thing we will do for the next few years."

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