Mac OS X Beta Arrives

OS X walls off programs from each other, so when one crashes, users don’t have to reboot the computer. This technical feature, known as protected memory, allows the computer user to do more than one task at a time without crashing the machine. [Windows NT does this, but not Windows Millennium Edition.] OS X also provides a much more efficient way of running several programs at once, bringing the Mac up to standards enjoyed by partisans of the Linux operating system.

“Crashes should be, in theory, a thing of the past,” said John Norstad, a computer administrator at Northwestern University who has programmed the Mac for more than a decade.

The software is based around technology Apple acquired from Next Computer, the company Jobs founded after being forced out of Apple in the 1980s that Apple then acquired during Jobs’ triumphal return to power three years ago.

“We’ve gone through the operating system and looked at everything and asked how can we simplify this and make it more powerful at the same time,” Jobs said.

Gasps and Even Some Boos

Jobs, dressed down in faded jeans and a polo neck sweater — in typical fashion — also previewed iMovie2, the improved film editing software for home video and music use. He also showed off Apple’s now standard optical mouse and the new assortment of colors for the iBook laptops — indigo, a more refined graphite and keylime, an“electric, more high-impact” hue, according to Greg Joswick, Apple’s director of portables product marketing.

The audience gasped at Jobs’ video game demonstration that showed the speed of Apple’s new dual-processor PowerMac computers which run on two computer chips.

“I think it’s the strongest product line that Apple has ever had,” boasted Jobs, who co-founded the company in 1976.

The Office 2001 demo, which showed off new business software due later this year and developed by Microsoft, elicited a round of boos — a reaction by ardent Apple fans that points to the “Catch-22” of the company’s software availability dilemma.

While Microsoft is sometimes vilified by Apple loyalists, the two companies have enjoyed close ties over the years, with Microsoft providing many of the key applications that run on Apple computers. In 1997, Microsoft also injected much-needed capital to prop up the then down-on-its-luck Apple.

Jobs played down the hostility, joking, “There’s a whole team at Microsoft that really like Macintoshes and works night and day to make software better for Macintosh than Microsoft.”

ABCNEWS.com’s Sascha Segan and Reuters contributed to this report.

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