Mac OS X system emerges from painful adolescence
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in
Issue #643 February 19-25, 2002, The High Tech Office column
Most of the attention at last month's MacWorld Expo
focused on Apple's
redesigned iMac computer. A one-line remark of Apple CEO Steve Jobs
was, perhaps, more significant to the company and its users' future.
Jobs mentioned that effective immediately, all Macs
would be shipping
with the company's next-generation operating system, OS X, as the
Turn on a new Mac, and you'll be greeting with OS X's
interface. While Macs have been shipping with both OS X and the older
9 installed, they have been booting up to the old look and feel. It was
up to users to choose to turn OS X on. Now, users will have to
opt for the old way of working.
Apple was proclaiming that OS X, officially released
last March, is
finally ready for people to use on a daily basis.
Initially this wasn't the case. The first official
release sported Apple's
new futuristic Aqua user interface, and the power and stability of OS
But too often it was painfully slow, especially when
starting up programs.
And given Apple's ambition for its computers to be a "digital hub,"
cameras, music players, CD burners and more, I was surprised that there
wasn't much support for these or other hardware devices. Moreover, when
the operating system was new, hardly any software was designed to make
full use of its power. Most older Mac programs would run in OS X's
Mode, but why would users bother?
OS X looked great, and it was clearly Apple's vision
of the future.
But when it first came out, there really wasn't much point in actually
A lot has changed since last spring, however. Much of
is due to the September release of the free OS X 10.1 update.
Programs start up much faster. When you start a
program in OS X, its
icon bounces expectantly in the Dock along the bottom of the screen. In
the original version, on my aging iMac, Internet Explorer took a
13 bounces to start up. With the new version it opens in five bounces.
The Sherlock search tool used to take five bounces, now it's up in a
The update added much-needed support for hardware.
digital cameras, and printers now work as soon as they're plugged in.
still not perfect; there's not enough support for scanners or many
devices, for example.
And there's starting to be OS X-native software. Apple
claims more than
2,500 applications. Many of these are things that most users have never
heard of and will never use, but the major players are starting to
OS X versions of their products, often with new features. Corel,
for example, has been bringing out OS X versions of much of its
product line, getting a jump on competitor Adobe. Microsoft's
Office v. X brings a perky version of that industry standard to Apple's
platform (see last week's column). And OS X's Unix core makes it easier
to make industrial-strength Unix and Linux applications run on Macs.
Not all the key pieces of software are available for
OS X yet. Adobe
demonstrated a new version of Photoshop at last month's MacWorld Expo
stayed mum about the release date, although the company has released
other products for OS X. Without Photoshop and Quark
XPress, many Mac graphics users aren't going to move over to the new
Apple's been working to replace the traditional Mac
for the better part of a decade. Now, in deciding that all new Macs
boot up to OS X, Apple decided that its technology (and users) are
ready to make the change.