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Apple to Open Tiger

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Apple Computer said it will let developers get as close as they want to its next-generation Mac OS X, code-named Tiger, as part of its annual summer forum.

The Macintosh-maker said it is scheduling more hands-on and expert-led coding sessions at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in early June so that members of its Apple Developers Connection can get drill downs on version 10.4. Tiger’s official release date remains a guarded secret, but executives say the OS will debut nearly a year before Microsoft’s Longhorn OS sees the light of day.

Apple said developers will work side by side with its own engineers to explore new development opportunities. The company will highlight its desktop search tool code-named Spotlight; its widget program called Dashboard; and integrated metadata and graphics features with Core Data, Core Image and Core Video.

“One of the keys for this year’s conference is going to be innovation,” Ron Okamoto, Apple vice president of worldwide developer relations, told “To support that, our Apple engineering team will be at the conference. They walk the floor and give them ideas.”

The format of WWDC 2005 will also build on CEO Steve Jobs’ call to action last month that 2005 will be the year of high definition technology, as well as building applications for Xserve, Xserve RAID and Final Cut Pro, Okamoto said. Developers are also expected to have access to more database and scripting skills, as well as learn about how to develop for the latest technologies like Xgrid and Xsan.

The company’s developer evangelist also said Apple is finding great success in the Java, Unix and open source development communities.

“One good way that we gauge that is measuring the activity on SourceForge and the community for the Mac,” Okamoto said. He also pointed out that Apple is building its presence in the life sciences community with an increased amount of forums focused on labs and presentation forums.

Even though Apple is publicly letting developers cozy up to its Tiger Mac OS, the company has been aggressive about keeping details veiled; not only is its release date unknown, it’s also the center of a legal dispute. Apple is suing about 25 individuals who allegedly distributed developer builds of Mac OS X 10.4 over peer-to-peer network BitTorrent.

The dispute has garnered the ire of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who vouched for one defendant, criticized his former company for going after developers and said he would, “personally donate $1,000 to the Canadian student’s [legal] defense.” An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The company also remains guarded about its best seller, the iPod. Quickly becoming a cultural icon, the company last week said it has sold more than 10 million units to date, but the digital music player’s API remains locked down.

Okamoto said third-party developer work for the iPod and its kin, the iPod photo, iPod mini and new iPod shuffle has been largely about accessories that connect to the music player and some content.

For example, a company called Osirix has developed an application that can ultimately make 3D X-ray scans viewable on the iPod Photo. The software lets doctors and other medical professionals share content between the devices sharing between doctors, Okamoto said.

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