From: Rohit Khare (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Sep 14 2000 - 11:49:26 PDT
September 14, 2000
Apple Breaks the Mold
By J. D. BIERSDORFER
The last time Apple Computer introduced a fundamentally new operating system
was in 1984, when System 1.0 was shipped with the original Macintosh
computer. Ronald Reagan was president, Steve Jobs was the chairman of Apple,
and consumers' embrace of Windows was still several years away. (In those
days many computers ran on the DOS platform, which involved a lot of typed
commands instead of pointing and clicking.)
Since then, there have been upgrades and false starts, and Mr. Jobs has gone
and returned. And yesterday, after years of waiting by the Macintosh
faithful, Apple Computer released to the public a beta version of its Mac OS
X (10) operating system software.
The system is new not only in its new interface, called Aqua, but also at
its core, which is based on the stable Unix operating system. "This is the
single most anticipated release from Apple ever," proclaimed the Mac
Observer, a Web site devoted to Macintosh news, late last week before the
beta became available. "The eyes of the Mac world, the PC world, Wall Street
and a few other places will be focused on Apple." While the stakes are high
for Apple, the new operating system could have an impact on the rest of the
computer world as well.
"If MacOS X is accepted," said Andreas Pfeiffer, editor of the industry
newsletter The Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies, "it will
also help re-establish Apple as an innovator in the operating- systems
space, where the company has kept a relatively low profile lately, and
alongside with the continuing growth of Linux, it will contribute to the
erosion of the Windows domination of the overall computing market."
Anyone who would like to pay for the opportunity to try out the new
operating system and help find those last few bugs can order a CD and a
manual from Apple's Web site (store.apple.com) for $29.95 plus tax. The
price, which Mr. Jobs announced yesterday in his keynote speech at the Apple
Expo in Paris, may come as a surprise to those hoping to download the code
free from the Web. "The audience, however, did not seem to take offense,"
Mr. Pfeiffer said in an e-mail message from Paris, "and when one thinks
things over, it probably makes a lot of sense since only motivated users
will actually pay."
But Mac addicts should know that they are using the software at their own
risk. A beta test is usually considered to be the last stage of examination
and evaluation for software code before it is released to customers in its
Bugs and glitches may still lurk within the code, and many users who rely on
a functioning Mac won't touch a beta release with a 10- foot mouse. But
software thrill-seekers will often jump at the chance to see a product
early, find problems with it and report them to the company.
The fact that a company has released a test version of the software to the
public isn't news in itself. Microsoft released a beta versions of Windows
98 to impatient consumers for $30. America Online has even asked for
volunteers to test its upgrades free of charge.
"Releasing Mac OS X as a public beta first is vital," Mr. Pfeiffer said.
"The whole software industry seems to have switched to that model for final
stages of testing, and it contributes significantly to ironing out bugs."
This is the first time Apple has offered a public beta release of any
operating system, according to Philip Schiller, the vice president of
worldwide marketing at Apple Computer. He said there were various ways for
customers to file bug reports and comments on the beta, including a link
right on the desktop of Mac OS X that takes users to the appropriate place
on the Web.
He also said the company would ask the beta's users for surveys and
comments. The beta-testing period is expected to last into early next year,
and the beta software itself will expire in May 2001. Pricing for the final
version is not yet set.
What is news is that the operating system has finally appeared. Back in 1994
Apple announced that a new state-of-the-art operating system, code-named
Copland, was in the works. It was going to be the silver bullet that saved
Apple from its internal woes and from losing any more ground to Microsoft in
the platform wars, which were heightened by the introduction of Windows 95.
Copland never made it to the marketplace. Technical problems and the
company's turbulence in the mid-1990's didn't help matters, and while bits
of the Copland system were incorporated into later system upgrades,
including Mac OS 7.6 and 8.0, a truly new system has not appeared until now.
Apple's System 1.0 consisted of six files that took up 216 kilobytes of
space. In comparison, the Mac OS X beta has system requirements that seem
hefty enough to launch a space shuttle.
Apple advises users to have a computer that can spare 1.5 gigabytes of
hard-drive space and 128 megabytes of RAM to operate the beta system,
although the final release is expected to require only 64 megabytes of RAM.
Beta testers will also need to possess a Power Macintosh computer with at
least a G3 chip and Mac OS 9. Apple says that any G3 machine (including all
iMac and iBook models) except the original G3 PowerBook can run the Mac OS X
A preview of the Mac OS X beta showed Aqua to be visually stunning, with
updated, more detailed graphics, and easy to navigate. And, at least on a G4
Power Cube system that was provided by Apple, it refused to crash.
"If you go down the list for all the things that customers want in an
operating system, we feel we have addressed it all," Mr. Schiller said.
"Stability is No. 1. OS X is designed to meet all customer needs, from the
consumer to the educator to the desktop professional."
Existing programs that run on Mac OS 9 should work on X, and Apple says that
more than 200 different developers, including Microsoft, Adobe, I.B.M., Sun
Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, have agreed to create software for the new
That reliable Unix kernel underneath all the Aqua has already attracted the
attention of software developers who might create new applications for
Macintosh. (Unix is a supremely stable, industrial-strength operating system
favored by computer professionals for everything from scientific and
academic applications to running Web sites.) Mr. Schiller said that 5,000
developers had been given copies of the OS X code for use in creating new
According to figures supplied by Roger Kay of the International Data
Corporation, Apple Computer currently holds a 3.4 percent share of the
computer market worldwide. How much interest the beta project generates
outside the Mac community remains to be seen.
"My feeling is that Mac OS X is just another new product for Apple and won't
have the `make or break' impact that everyone ascribed to Copland," said
Owen W. Linzmayer, author of "Apple Confidential," a history of the company,
in an e-mail message. "I think Mac OS X will be greeted with a warm welcome
from the Macintosh faithful but is likely to be ignored by the mass market
no matter how much better than Windows it happens to be."
Mr. Pfeiffer said: "If Mac OS X succeeds, it will once again put the
Macintosh in a class of its own. Not only will the operating system look
significantly different - and in a consumer market, looks do count, as Apple
has proven with the iMac - it will also be the first consumer OS based on a
solid Unix foundation."
Despite the overhaul, one thing that hasn't changed with all this change is
that when the beta OS X boots up, the little Mac face that has been part of
all Mac systems before still smiles at the user. If the beta testing is a
success and the final release of Mac OS X delivers on its promises, that
little Mac may be grinning even more widely in years to come.
ADVENTURES IN BETA LAND
Aqua Everywhere: An Early Look at OS X
By J. D. BIERSDORFER with DON DONOFORIO
The Mac OS X beta software comes neatly packaged from Apple inside a clean
white folder with a big blue X on the front. Even though Apple says X should
be pronounced "10," the enigmatic appeal of the letter X seems vaguely more
appropriate. X, after all, is the unknown - and the unknown is both the joy
and the curse of beta-ware.
Following the documentation included with the Mac OS X CD-ROM, we installed
a copy of the beta version of the Mac OS X onto a separate 9-gigabyte disk
partition (akin to giving the OS a hard drive all its own) of a
400-megahertz iMac running Mac OS 9.0.4 with 128 megabytes of RAM. We were
up and running in about 25 minutes.
We didn't have a lot of time to jump into OS X and pound on it, so what
follows is mostly what we observed, not the results of a true test. The
system generally behaved quite well, though sluggishly on occasion.
The Aqua interface is visually stunning, but it took a few minutes to adjust
to some of the new features. The old standby Apple Menu is gone, as is the
Chooser. Applications can be launched from the Dock, an animated palette at
the bottom of the screen, from the applications's icon or desktop aliases.
The desktop and the Finder have been separated, and the Finder now reveals
your computer's contents in a window that resembles a Web browser's, with
Shortcut and Back buttons and three different views.
Open windows seem to hover in the foreground of the screen, casting shadows
on the desktop and other windows underneath them. Animated Save dialog boxes
glide down from document title bars, and buttons slowly pulsate until you
click on them. Each title bar contains a Minimize button that sends the
windows swirling into the Dock when clicked.
The System Preferences icon in the Dock allows users to change system
settings, much as the Control Panels in the Apple menu used to do. There are
even options for running the system in English, French or German right out
of the box.
We were able to switch back and forth between Mac OS 9 and the OS X beta
systems, and even work in old software programs and print documents in what
Apple calls the Classic environment, which flips you back into OS 9 for
using older software programs.
But while the user interface is elegant, it is merely eye candy if all it
does is look pretty. The system's core is called Darwin, based on the
Berkeley Software Distribution variant of Unix. It contains all the
hallmarks of a modern operating system, like pre-emptive multitasking and
protected memory. Pre-emptive multitasking means that the system will work
faster and more efficiently. Protected memory (which can be seen in action
with the included Process Manager application) protects against the whole
system crashing when a single program does. Unfortunately, the Classic
environment is not protected that way. The system's visual look is due to a
combination of graphics technologies, including Quartz, Open GL and
QuickTime, that can render crisp 2-D, 3-D and multimedia images. The booklet
included with the beta CD was clearly written and provided comparisions
between Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X that helped make sense of the changes in OS X
more quickly. The beta software is not a complete system, as support for
many network-related functions and external devices aren't included yet.
Beta testers will need to have a machine running Mac OS 9 with least a G3
processor, 128 megabytes of RAM, 1.5 gigbytes of hard disk space and an
internal video card. The original G3 PowerBook and computers upgraded with
G3 cards are not supported. Full system requirements and support information
are available at www.apple.com/support/macosx.
As with all beta software, however, the user should be aware that it is
still a work in progress. If you have the resources to try the Mac OS X
beta, there is a lot of intriguing new territory - and probably some bugs -
to explore. So is the Mac OS X beta for you? It depends on how you plan to
use it. The beta comes with a usable e-mail program and a blazingly fast
version of Microsoft Internet Explorer written for OS X. There is a growing
list of other applications written for it; they will become available as the
beta version becomes more widely used.
Using Mac OS X is a real treat. The stunning interface is intuitive and is
new while still feeling like a Mac. But if you need to rely heavily on
applications that require the Classic environment, you had better wait for a
more mature version of Mac OS X.
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