Apple is shopping around for a new OS kernel, Mach is on the list
By Elinor Mills
Posted at 7:11 AM PT, Jan 22, 1997
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Apple Computer is considering several kernels for
its new Macintosh operating system, including the Mach kernel.
"The Mach is still in the running," said Ellen Hancock, Apple's chief
technology officer who spoke here Tuesday at a conference sponsored by
Upside magazine and the Nasdaq stock exchange.
Apple is also looking at its own Copland kernel, but is "leaning toward the
Mach kernel," Hancock said. She declined to name any other technologies
being considered for the underlying code that manages many of the basic
system operations of a computer.
Backward compatibility under the new MacOS, to be built using Next
technology, will be available to customers as part of a limited-function
offering, she said. But "compelling" backward compatibility won't be
available until the middle of 1998, she added.
When Apple was negotiating last year to aquire Be Inc., Hancock told Be CEO
Jean-Louis Gassee that the new MacOS would use the Copland kernel, she
said. But with Next "it was more complex because the Next group had
delivered to market a Mach kernel," Hancock said. "[Next] recommended that
we continue to port to the new Mach kernel."
Contrary to what Gassee said earlier at the conference, Apple did not
decide to buy Next instead of Be solely to strengthen its position in the
enterprise marketplace, she said. (See "Be Inc.'s Gassee outlines his
company's future as an Apple competitor.")
"We would like to have a presence in the enterprise, but we did not pick
Next ... to just be an enterprise player," she said.
Apple's decision rested on which technology would better work with Apple
technology and which would enable Apple get its next MacOS to market the
quickest, Hancock explained.
Hancock expects the $400 million acquisition of Next to be completed at the
end of this month or early next month.
IBM and Motorola, Apple's partners in the PowerPC alliance, are supportive
of the Next acquisition, although IBM questioned why Apple was not using
IBM's AIX operating system, Hancock said.
"Many of our customers would like us to hide the Unix nature of our
operating system so it's more like a Macintosh," she added.
Hancock was blunt in her criticism of the development of Copland, and said
technology was being "held hostage" for that long-running software project.
She also said she found an early version of the operating system to be so
unsuitable for beta release that the negative response from developers
"could be dangerous to people's health."
The Next plan "is more executable than the Copland plan, and this plan does
more than we were going to be able to deliver with Gershwin," which would
have followed Copland, Hancock said.
The Next deal is part of a larger shift toward focusing more on software at
Apple, she said.
"We are a systems company that is currently too much dominated by
hardware," Hancock said. "We have to have a better balance within the
company as relates to hardware and software."
Apple also will work to be less "insular" and to have a defined development
strategy, she said.