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Briefly: Mac OS X 10.3.8, Dashboard, iPod shuffle...

A collection of notes related to Apple\'s OS strategies and and an update on the company\'s iPod shuffle digital music player.

The next, and possibly final, release of Apple\'s Mac OS X \"Panther\" operating system continues to gain some perks, according to developers who\'ve been privy to information surrounding the latest pre-release builds.

In recent days, developers blogs have reported sightings of Mac OS X 10.3.8 build 7U7, a forthcoming maintenance release to Mac OS X Panther that currently weighs in at just shy of 20 MB.

In addition to previous reports of increased system and graphics stability, developers claim the most recent build delivers improvements to the launch time of certain applications, while offering more graphics driver and OpenGL performance fixes since the previous build.

Now believed to be in the mid-stages of its development, Mac OS X 10.3.8 is also said to sport improvements to Address Book LDAP lookup and Active Directory Plugin binding and functionality.

Mac OS X 10.3.8 is reportedly slated for release sometime next month.

Apple offers insight into latest Tiger developments

In related Mac OS X news, Apple last week quietly updated its online preview of Mac OS X \"Tiger\" to include movie captures from some of the latest, unreleased builds of the operating system.

Most striking are the changes to Apple\'s upcoming widgets application, called Dashboard. The application, now seamlessly integrated into Tiger, spawns its own dock below the Mac OS X dock when activated.

The online preview also offers clips of additional Tiger features which have previously been reported on AppleInsider, such as QuickTime movie sharing, Mail 2.0 interface improvements, and parental controls.

Sigmatel chip at heart of iPod shuffle

Confirming industry rumors which sprouted months ago, analyst Portelligent, Inc., claims to have confirmed that Apple\'s just released iPod Shuffle MP3 player employs SigmaTel\'s D-Major STMP3550 MP3 audio decoder chip for audio processing.

Shares of Sigmatel rose over 2% today to close at $37.25. The stock rose further in after hours to $32.62.

And while Reuters is reporting that Apple\'s online store is quoting wait times of up to 4 weeks for one of these new flash-based music players, we hear that a certain Calif.-based Apple retail store retained quite a few of them as of Tuesday afternoon.