"What a big hole Microsoft has dug - they're trying to get out of it with Windows 7," said Apple's VP Bertrand Serlet as he detailed the company's new operating system Snow Leopard.

The new operating system, which is due out later in the year, promises a number of new features plus a faster, more refined, OS.

Keen to promote certain elements of the new OS, Apple focused on features it believes will make daily chores easier.

According to Serlet, after installing the new OS users will gain back over 6GB of storage space on their computer.

The company's Expose is now built-in to the dock and users will be able to click and hold on an app to automatically zoom out their active windows rather than seeing all active windows.

In a move that is likely to see more rumours that Apple is shifting to a touch interface for its laptops, the Cupertino based company has added handwriting recognition to its laptop trackpad allowing users to write directly on the trackpad to input characters into certain applications.

Users will also get a new QuickTime, version X, with a redesigned player that allows users to view, record, trim and share video to YouTube, MobileMe or iTunes promising an easier experience similar to applications like VLC.

In an attempt to woo business users, Apple has now added Microsoft's Exchange software allowing users to access exchange data from their computer using the company's own Mail and iCal applications.

According to Apple "Users will notice a more responsive Finder; Mail that loads messages 85 percent faster and conducts searches up to 90 percent faster; Time Machine with up to 50 percent faster initial backup; a 64-bit version of SafariĀ® 4 that boosts the performance of the Nitro JavaScript engine by up to 50 percent and is resistant to crashes caused by plug-ins."

Independently of the new OS, Apple has also confirmed that it will launching a new version of its internet browser Safari. Version 4.0, which will be shipping today, promises an increased speed performance as well as improve search history.

Current leopard users will be able to upgrade for $29 and be available in September. For Tiger users wanting to upgrade to the new OS, the price will be $169.

No UK pricing has been confirmed as yet.