Apple Computer announced last week that Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, this year's new version of the Mac OS X operating system, will be available at Apple's retail stores and authorized resellers at 8:00 PM on Friday, 24-Oct-03. Panther Server, or Mac OS X Server 10.3, will be released at the same time. Panther boasts a completely rewritten and redesigned Finder, offering faster searching and a user interface showing its first major evolution away from the remnants of the NeXT user interface. New features include Expose, a clever way of selecting from among all open windows; iChat AV, an audio- and video-enabled version of Apple's chat software; fast user switching; FileVault home directory encryption and other security enhancements; and behind-the-scenes synchronization of the user's iDisk to a local folder for offline work. (See "Mac OS X Panther Springs at WWDC" in TidBITS-685.)
Panther supports all PowerPC G3- and G4-based Macs that shipped with USB ports (which eliminates a few older PowerPC G3 models that worked with Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar), plus the new Power Mac G5s. It is available for pre-order immediately from the Apple Store or other Apple retailers like Small Dog Electronics at a single-user price of $130 or a "family pack" price (for up to five users at the same residence) of $200. Panther Server costs $500 for the 10-client edition and $1,000 for the unlimited-client edition.
Anyone purchasing Mac OS X or a new Mac on or after 08-Oct-03, or anyone who's purchased a Power Mac G5 at all, is entitled to a Mac OS Up-To-Date upgrade to Panther for a $20 shipping and handling fee; a corresponding Panther Server offer is available to anyone who purchases Mac OS X Server or an Xserve today or later. The Up-To-Date policy of favoring Power Mac G5 owners, regardless of purchase date, has rankled users who ordered new PowerBooks when they were announced only a few weeks before the Panther announcement. Although Apple's official line is that non-G5 Macs are eligible for the Up-To-Date pricing only if bought after 08-Oct-03, many PowerBook owners (including TidBITS readers and staffers) are reporting mixed success when entering their machines' serial numbers in Apple's online form; in a few cases, attempts late last week failed, but retries over the weekend were successful.