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Wednesday, May 05, 2004, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Sources hint at forthcoming Mac OS X technologies

Major changes are in store for forthcoming revisions to the Mac OS X operating system, according to tidbits obtained by AppleInsider over the last 6 months.

To date, only a select few — outside of the development team — have been privy to Apple's plans for Mac OS X 10.4. According to sources, the company has been performing private briefings with partners during small or one-on-one meetings, all of which are covered by non-disclosure agreements. As a result, details of rumored features are vague and confirmation on timeframes is severely lacking.

Metadata Support

Nevertheless, one rumor which dates back to last October states that Apple has been working on a metadata enabled database file system. Essentially, metadata is "data about data," and includes data associated with either an information system or an information object for purposes of description, administration, legal requirements, technical functionality, use and preservation.

For example, sources said that image attributes such as size, width, and height would be stored in the metadata filesystem, allowing users to retrieve this information without physically opening the image file in an application.

In October, sources said the company hoped to leapfrog Microsoft to market. (Microsoft's Longhorn operating system is also rumored to feature wider metadata support.) The Mac OS X metadata support would be accompanied by frameworks to distribute metadata and a superior searching system utilizing the metadata, sources said.

It's unclear if Apple has proceeded with plans to incorporate this technology into Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" or if it has been diverted in favor of a later version of the Mac OS. However, it has been confirmed that Apple is striving to release a new file system before the debut of Microsoft's Longhorn OS.

New Safari Browser

Within the next 9 months Apple will also introduce a major revision to Safari, reliable sources said. While this major revision is expected to sport a number of new features, a version of the browser with a completely rewritten javascript engine could appear even earlier. The new javascript engine is said to be 'extremely fast' and is currently in the latter stages of development.

Government Security

Another interesting set of technologies, which are due in the upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.4, pertain to security. According to one source, Apple has been working closely with governmental agencies to tailor a number of powerful Mac OS security advancements that will be fully integrated into the new system.

The company has reportedly briefed only a small handful of individuals on the subject, and therefore the source refused to comment further.

As always, if you have any further information on these subjects and care to share the wealth, please contact us at confidential@appleinsider.com, via our anonymous voicemail or through our anonymous mailer.