Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) chief executive Steve Jobs previewed the next release of the Mac OS X operating system on Monday, claiming it will boast some coveted features that Microsoft Windows won't include until 2006.

"It's going to drive the copycats crazy," Jobs said of the software, which he promised for next year, before an enthusiastic audience at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco's Moscone Center (search).

Code-named "Tiger," the upgrade will be the fifth version of Mac OS X in its four-year history.

Among 150 planned new features will be an advanced new searching tool called "Spotlight" that can instantly search for keywords across different types of files in the machine — whether they're in an e-mail, image, or text document.

Finding data on a single, bulging desktop remains largely a hassle, especially when compared to the ease of searching the Web with Google. Jobs demonstrated how, with Spotlight, typing the words "Half Dome" into his computer instantly found the right information, even a digital map of Yosemite National Park (search) with the famous mountain marked.

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) impending "Longhorn" Windows release also is to include a more sophisticated searching method as a key element.

Other highlighted "Tiger" features included support for multiple participants in the iChat video-conferencing program; a new version of the Safari browser that can generate a news feed-like interface for Web sites; support for the next-generation video-compression standard known as H.264; and a "Dashboard" feature that allows users to pull up a custom collection of tools, say, the calculator, iTunes control panel, and a to-do list — all with one keyboard tap.

The new version is to be available in the first half of 2005 at a suggested retail price of $129.

Jobs also unveiled a new design of widescreen displays for its Apple Cinema line, including a 30-inch version, the largest high resolution display in the market.

Unlike its predecessor, the aluminum-encased flat-panel monitor, which will also come in 20- and 23-inch versions, are compatible with Windows PC machines as well as Macintosh computers.

The 30-inch display will be available in August for $3,299. It requires a separate purchase and installation of a $599 Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) graphics card. The 20-inch and 23-inch models will be available in July for $1,299 and $1,999, respectively.