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Apple says: Jaguar in August, Bluetooth built in, discovery a standard: In New York today at the Macworld Expo, CEO Steve Jobs unleashed a hailstorm of minor announcements you can read a lot about in all kinds of forums, like Macworld's show coverage or Macintouch among hundreds of others. (More journalists than attendees, it feels like sometimes.)
But you won't hear a lot more than just some facile discussion of how Apple is extending itself out of the desktop and into the network. While Apple has always offered excellent and simple networking tools, Jaguar raises the bar by saying that, essentially, anything Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar's official release number) is connected to is a resource waiting to be identified and used.
For instance, the Bluetooth support that Apple has been previewing for months will be standard in OS X, and Jobs showed a number of neat tricks, like dialing a phone number from 10.2's vastly improved address book; using iChat, the instant messaging program that works with AOL's system, to SMS (short messaging service) a reply to someone who calls; watching the incoming call identify the caller and bring up their entry in the address book. All of these are interesting. But Bluetooth support still doesn't offer file transfer (it can receive, but not send files, at least in the latest preview) or printer support (that may change, too).
To name drop, Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal Personal Technology columnist, said to me this morning when I bumped into him, why bother getting Bluetooth yet, because there's nothing that's compelling at the moment except perhaps making data calls. Apple's integration pushes that further, but it still doesn't make Bluetooth truly worthwhile except in niche applications. But the technology will pull the uses: people are gambling on making devices that use Bluetooth, and some of these will stick. Apple gambled that AirPort's utility would outweigh its newness and override the years of suspicion built on previous simple wireless systems, like infrared and abandoned radio transceivers.
One of the other components of Jaguar that's really quite new is Rendezvous, a technology I've written about before here. Rendezvous is a discovery protocol that allows the operating system to figure out what resources are available by scanning the network. That network can be anything running IP, in Jobs's words, which includes future versions of FireWire, and existing versions of wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Apple wants Rendezvous to become a standard, and announced today that Lexmark, HP, and Epson all agreed to build the standard into future printers.
Like many compelling technologies, Rendezvous solves a giant problem. We all know how irritating it is to have to manually find resources. We want our computers to recognize what they're connected to, whether these devices are directly connected or out in a cloud. I can't imagine how many billions of peoplehours are wasted with IT admins having to configure machines to recognize things that users have access to, but their system won't find or resists recognizing.
Rendezvous plus wireless means that when we connect to unknown networks, all of their gems will be clearly exposed -- no mining required. This could be a good or bad thing depending on how open the network is. Once again, here in New York, I'm using an open network (not free, just unprotected) out my hotel window.