Apple seems to be positioning itself to take a more competitive stance in the enterprise, with the launch of Mac OS X version 10.3 "Panther," as well as the server version of Panther, analysts say.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based computer maker plans to launch the two products, along with new versions of a number of applications at 8 p.m. on Oct. 24.
"Apple has done a great job in terms of how well Panther Server would fit in existing Unix or Windows environments," Jupiter Research (owned by the same company as this Web site) analyst Joe Wilcox told internetnews.com. "The same goes for the desktop, where e-mail and the address book can synchronize with a [Microsoft] Exchange Server and even Active Directory. When I look at Panther, I really see a release that's very, very well positioned for large organizations."
The Mac OS X operating system is built on a core of FreeBSD, a version of the open source BSD operating system that descends from Unix. Apple said OS X Server 'Panther' boasts 150 new features, including a Server Admin tool that the company said makes it easy for administrators to set up and manage the open source software built into Mac OS X. It also includes Open Directory 2 for hosting scalable LDAP directory and Kerberos authentication services, Samba 3 for providing login and home directory support for Windows clients, and the JBoss application server.
Samba 3 will allow Windows client users to authenticate against Panther Server directly from a PC login window, Apple said, also noting that Panther Server will be able to host Windows home directors and support Windows "roaming profiles."
Additionally, the new Server Admin tool is intended to make it easy for system administrators to set up, manage, and monitor the services built into Panther Server.
Panther Server also includes a new mail server, which Apple said it rebuilt from the ground up using the open source Postfix SMTP and Cyrus IMAP and POP servers. This gives Panther Server an open architecture for integrating with spam and virus filtering solutions, as well as SSL (define) support for secure e-mail. Apple has also built a new VPN (define) server into Panther Server that supports Mac OS X, Windows, or Unix clients using PPTP and L2TP tunneling protocols. The product also features an updated release of the Apache Web server, as well as Apache Tomcat and Apache Axis.
On the client operating system side, Apple has completely redesigned the Finder, and said file searching is now up to six times faster than it was in Mac OS X version 10.2 'Jaguar.' Apple said it now provides one-click access to favorite folders, storage, servers and iDisk in one location, and offers dynamic browsing of the network for Mac, Windows and Unix file servers.
Panther also features Expose, a new way to view the desktop powered by the Mac OS X Quartz graphic engine. Expose allows a user to view all open windows and choose any of them to be on top. Apple said it visually unshuffles overlapping windows on the desktop and then organizes them into a thumbnail view to allow users to quickly locate and switch to any open window or get any file on the desktop.
Other new features include iChat AV, a desktop video conferencing solution; Fast User Switching, which gives the ability to switch between active users without logging out; FileVault, which incorporates new security standards and 128-bit encryption to keep data in the home directory secure; Font Book, providing system-level font management; integrated iDisk to automatically synch users' offline work to their .Mac Internet server storage; a new Address Book; enhanced Windows compatibility; support for the latest open source libraries, commands and technologies, X11 applications, IPv6, Kerberos and the NFS file system; Xcode, for creating OS X applications; and new versions of iSynch, iCal, iPhoto, iMovie, the iTunes Music Store; and the Safari browser.
Wilcox noted that while in the previous version of Mac OS X, 'Jaguar,' the new features and enhancements were readily obvious to the end user, many of Panther's improvements are below the surface, but more significant, especially the improvements to the way it interacts with Windows and Unix machines.
"I think, definitely, this could at least help Apple stay in the running with other enterprise software, and if you look at the broader strategy, one of Apple's long-term goals with the server, and also with the desktop, is Unix conversion," Wilcox said. "The company knows that there are many shops where Macs run alongside Unix servers."
He explained that many scientific research or content creation shops start out on Macs but then move up to Unix. With the Panther release, he said the company is looking to get those shops to switch to Macs when they upgrade their Unix boxes. And he noted that while Apple continues to play up the comparison with Microsoft's Windows operating system, Panther is far more likely to eat into the Unix market, or even possibly the Linux market.
"The more likely scenario, when we look at Windows and Linux and Unix, is that Mac OS X is more likely to expand into the Unix market than it is the Windows market," Wilcox said. "It may even convert some people from the Linux market."
OS X Server 'Panther' will have a suggested retail price of $499 for a 10-client edition and $999 for an unlimited-client edition. The client version of the operating system will have a suggested retail price of $129 for a single user license and $199 for a single-residence, five-user license. Apple noted that volume and maintenance pricing is available.
This article was originally published on internetnews.com.