In its bid to create a world-class operating system that will compete effectively with Windows 2000, Apple Computer has delayed the release of the product yet again, aping the long development time of its Microsoft competition. Mac OS X, which would have originally shipped in late 1999, and then mid-2000, will now ship in January 2001 instead, giving the company time to fix compatibility and user interface problems. But the company spin-masters, led by iCEO Steve Jobs, caution that this "adjustment" of the schedule isn't really a "delay": Instead, the company will call the previously planned mid-summer release a beta, and it will be made available to the public. And the January 2001 date had already been discussed as the time that Macintosh computers would become bundled with the new OS anyway. The announcement came at Apple's yearly developer event, the World Wide Developer Conference.
"When we embarked on Mac OS X, we wanted to do with our software the same thing we wanted to do with our hardware: to reinvent it,'' Apple iCEO Steve Jobs said at the event, which was attended by 3600 developers.
Regardless of the ship date, Mac OS X represents a major leap for Apple Computer, and it has nothing to do with the pretty new "Aqua" user interface that the company preannounced last January: Mac OS X is built on the rock-solid Mach kernel and BSD-based UNIX, a monumental improvement over the stitched-together underpinnings of the current Mac OS, which makes even Windows 98 look elegant by comparison. As a result, Mac users that can handle OS X will finally gain the features NT/2000 users have had for some time: true preemptive multitasking, memory protection, and process isolation. Always an elegant client OS, the Mac OS will make big gains into the server market if Apple ever ships a dual-processor (or better) system, though Windows 2000 is already running on high-end multiple-processor, clustered systems.
Apple has also dramatically dropped the price of its WebObjects distributed application framework, from over $50,000 to $700 for an unlimited license. This sounds like a great deal until you realize that competing frameworks such as Microsoft ASP, PHP, and JSP are already available for free, many of them on a variety of platforms. Apple might consider giving away an unlimited-use version of WebObjects with a future server product if it expects to make any real headway in this market. And the company is also updating QuickTime--another preannouncement--to version 5.0 sometime this year. The next version of QuickTime does away with the sliding draw paradigm but retains the much-aligned user interface of the previous version. Apple didn't announce any new hardware at the show.
Microsoft Corporation unveiled its first Mac OS X product at the event, a Mac OS X-compliant version of Internet Explorer 5.0. Macintosh applications need to be updated significantly before they will run natively on Mac OS X, but Apple offers a compatibility library called "Carbon" that will allow legacy Mac apps to take advantage of OS X features. Microsoft's new version of IE 5.0 represents will be the company's first "Carbonized" Macintosh application; the upcoming release of Macintosh Office 2001 will not run natively on Mac OS X. "Taking an existing application to a new OS is always a technical challenge," says Microsoft's Dick Craddock, "But Apple engineers have done a great job listening to feedback and conducting 'coding kitchens' that help us with our development. There is considerable overlap between Carbon application programming interfaces (APIs) and classic Mac OS APIs, which made it a lot easier to 'Carbonize' the application.