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Mac System Test Version Released

Computers: Upgrade dubbed OS X 'is the future of the Macintosh,' says Apple chief Steve Jobs.


PARIS — Apple Computer chief Steve Jobs released a long-awaited test version of the Macintosh operating system Wednesday, offering sleek graphics and easier computing.

The ambitious OS X upgrade departs from the familiar linear windows that have long organized computer screens.

"It's unlike anything you've ever experienced on a Mac before," Jobs told an audience of more than 3,700 at the opening of the Apple Expo in Paris. "It is the future of the Macintosh. It turned out incredible."

A public test version of the OS X--the X stands for 10--went on sale Wednesday in English, French and German at the Paris trade show and at Apple's online stores for $29.95.

OS X has been delayed several times.

A more complete and fine-tuned commercial version will go on sale early next year, Jobs said. Apple has not yet announced the price of the final version.

Jobs also announced the release of two upgraded versions of the company's iBook laptop, starting at $1,499. The machines have faster processors, larger hard drives and come with FireWire ports for fast transfer of data and video.

In his characteristically relaxed garb of faded jeans and a black turtleneck, Jobs told a packed hall that the company's goal for its new operating system was to simplify the computing experience while revving up the power.

"It's very easy to do things without a lot of complexity, but when you need the complexity you have it in a very elegant way," Jobs said.

The revised file organizer in OS X lets movies, music and text files be previewed before being opened. The new system comes with an MP3 player and an audio player, as well as Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.0 Web browser.

"One of the coolest features of the new Mac operating system," Jobs said, is its revised taskbar, known as the "Dock," which makes it easier to organize and work with several documents, applications and windows at once.

The new operating system has plenty of changes under the hood as well. It can run more applications simultaneously and, if one program crashes, it won't take the entire system down with it.

Apple also announced that the powerful Radeon graphics card from ATI Technologies Inc. will be available as an option on custom-built Macs.

Graphics cards improve the looks of 3-D graphics in games and design applications. The graphics cards available for the Macintosh have lagged behind those for PCs in the last few years, but experts say the Radeon rivals the best PC cards.

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