Apple Computer opened its MacWorld Expo Wednesday with a bang, unveiling its upcoming operating system, Mac OS X, which will go head-to-head with Windows 98 and Windows 2000. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who slyly noted that he had dropped the "interim" title, announced the new OS and a host of other things during his keynote address in San Francisco.
"Mac OS X will delight consumers with its simplicity and amaze professionals with its power," said Steve Jobs. "Apple’s innovation is leading the way in personal computer operating systems once again."
Mac OS X ("ten") is a completely new version of the classic Macintosh operating system, rewritten to compare more favorably to the features that have been available to Windows users since 1995. This means that it gains memory protection, true multitasking, and other features. A new user interface dubbed "Aqua" blows away anything in the Windows world, however, offering users a beautiful and elegant way to interact with their systems.
Apple declined to preannounce any new PowerBook systems as previously expected, due to problems it had last summer when it preannounced G4 desktop systems, some of which have still never shipped. However, the company recounted its sales successes of the past year, including a record-setting number of Macintoshes sold in a quarter (1.3 million). On the surface, Apple appears to be in good shape, and certainly the Apple faithful ate it up as usual, but the truth is a little more humbling. While Apple is selling more Macintoshes, other companies are selling exponentially more IBM-compatible PCs. The company now owns less of the U.S. PC market then ever before (3.25%, compared to 11.8% in 1994) and its sales barely rose in 1999 when compared to the previous year ($6.1 billion vs. $5.9 billion). On the other hand, Apple is making more money than in recent years: $601 million in 1999 vs. $309 million in 1998 and a loss of $1.1 billion in 1997.
So what are we to make of the "new" Apple? As usual, the company is making crazy claims, but it's also making some interesting products. Like the new iMacs and iBooks, it's hard to simply dismiss Mac OS X, though its been continuously delayed since late 1998. Jobs says Apple won't ship the new operating system until summer 2000 at the earliest, with Mac bundles shipping in early 2001. Ouch: By that time, Windows 2000 will be firmly entrenched and Linux will have sucked up even more marketshare. Whether there's any more room for Apple remains to be seen.
For information about Mac OS X and Apple's other announcements, please visit the newly redesigned Apple Web site