Battle of the Steves, Day One: Jobs opens Seybold

Interim Apple CEO Steve Jobs opened Seybold this week with a keynote address featuring information about a new version of the MacOS, a new line of PowerBook's, and a new publishing system from Adobe that will run on MacOS X Server. On Wednesday, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer will give his own keynote, where he will fill in the holes with the Windows side of the publishing equation.

A Jobs address is, of course, a thing of beauty. The man can make anything sound rosy, but in Apple's case, things are indeed rosy. Their new iMac computer is selling faster than the company can make them, and an upcoming revision to the MacOS--version 8.5--will be out next month, providing Macintosh users with a stepping stone to a pre-emptively multitasked future called MacOS X ("Ten," not "Ex". Jobs took the stage with his usual swagger, but at least this time it was somewhat deserved.

MacOS 8.5 features a new find feature dubbed "Sherlock" that looks suspiciously like the Search feature in Windows NT 5.0 (and the Find feature in Windows 98): In addition to searching for files on a hard drive, it can also find information on the Internet. MacOS X, which is due in late 1999, was also demoed, and applications such as PhotoShop, FreeHand, and QuarkXPress were shown.

"Developers and customers told us that Mac OS 8 is the best out there in certain regards, but they wanted us to add new features," Jobs said. "With MacOS X, that's what we'll do. It will have full protected memory, very advanced virtual memory, preemptive multitasking, full multithreading, fast networking and I/O, will be fully PowerPC native and it will run MacOS 8 applications."

The original plan for MacOS X was for it to support existing Mac apps in emulation mode. That plan was dropped when developers refused to support yet another operating system. Instead, Apple tacked the best features of the MacOS--including its most important programming interfaces--onto the new OS so that old apps could run in the more powerful new environment. Mac software houses such as Adobe, Macromedia, and Quark immediately backed the new plan.

When asked when Apple's turnaround would be complete, Jobs said that a "turnaround" wasn't the big issue.

"Our goal is not to turn Apple around. Our goal is to make the best computer, the best hardware with the best software, in the world. We come to work every day with a desire to make even better products. A turnaround is just one milestone on a long road. It's for someone else to say when we've reached a turnaround."

Apple's turnaround, of course, will depend on several factors including marketshare (still in the sub-four percent range) and annual sales (still out of the top ten among PC manufacturers). The iMac, an upcoming new portable, and MacOS X will be the products that determine when, and if, this once great company has done it

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