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Which is the fairest software of them all?

Bangalore Oct. 28. It is that time of the year, when the world's leading desktop software products, look at their reflections and say: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?" On Friday last, Apple Computers released the latest version of their operating system, Mac OS X.3 codenamed "Panther".

Today, delegates in Los Angeles at the Professional Developer's Conference (PDC) sponsored by the Microsoft are getting their first detailed peek at the next "avatar" of its Windows software, codenamed "Longhorn" (a breed of American cattle). Headline writers have had a field day mixing metaphors like mad: "Big Cat out of the bag"; "Panther on the prowl"; "Will the panther make a meal of Longhorn?"

The Microsoft's Longhorn upgrade is not quite in the paddock yet-it is now expected only by late 2005. This has prompted "eWeek" to write that the long promised stampede of Longhorn seems remote: "The leisurely pace, now seems more like that of placidly grazing cash-cows." By seeming coincidence, the default background picture of Longhorn "leaked" by the winbeta.org website, shows its usual swirling clouds replaced in the lower half by a golden-yellow field.

When the 7000 delegates to PDC go home on October 30, they will each be clutching a DVD with an early trial version of Longhorn, plus Microsoft's Visual. Net programming tools. The company has already promised that Longhorn will be the "next big breakthrough" after Windows 1.0, first brought "point and click" capability to IBM-type PC users of the old DOS system in 1985.

New features briefly unveiled by the Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, during his Monday keynote speech include a file handling system called WinFS as well as Avalon, a powerful 3-D graphics tool and some strong anti-virus features. The Microsoft has hinted that the software will be the end of "C-drive computing," erasing the last walls between desktop and Web.

However, Mr. Gates' reported statement that the development costs of Longhorn are as much as putting a man on the moon, has led "Net-wits" to speculate if the cost of buying a copy would also end up equal to the cost of a ticket to the moon.

Meanwhile, Panther has unveiled a new feature for Apple users called "Expose" where users can scale and resize any number of windows on the desktop — and slide them all away with a single click. The Mac OS includes new ways to "mix-n'-match" both Apple and Windows machines on the same network. Last week, another divide was broken when Apple issued new versions of its popular "iTunes" music software for the rival Windows environment. In a nicely timed statement, the Intel CEO, Craig Barrett, said last week that the new Mac X.3 system could easily be made to run on Intel chips if Apple cho

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