Apple hits the mark with its operating system upgrade
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002 First published in Business in Vancouver , Issue #673 September 17, 2002 High Tech Office column
Apple seems to see itself as the BMW of the computer industry, making a virtue of its minority status. Sure, you can buy a Windows PC desktop or notebook or MP3 player for less money, but Apple's Macintoshes and iPod offer more features built-in, along with superior styling and usability.
Faced with the ongoing "gigahertz gap" between the speed ratings of the Intelprocessors used in PCs and the PowerPC processors used in Macs, Apple has upgraded its PowerMac towers to feature dual-processors across that power line. It's added a 17 inch widescreen LCD panel to its popular iMac lineup, and introduced a model of its iPod MP3 player for (gasp!) Windows.
And August 24 saw the company release the newest version of its operating system: OS X 10.2, code-named Jaguar. The $195 pricing ($300 for a five-user "family pack") has generated some controversy. The last version, 10.1, was free to existing OS X-users. Apple claims, however, that it's a major upgrade with more than 150 new and improved features, making it more appealing both to the majority of Mac-users who have not yet migrated to this stylish and crash-proof Unix-based platform, and to current Windows-users looking for an alternative to Microsoft.
Perhaps the most notable improvement is speed. Up until now, the old-style classic Mac operating system remained noticeably perkier. Jaguar speeds up performance across the board, with added improvements on Macs with the latest generation video adapters.
There's a total remake of the Sherlock search feature. Version 3 no longer looks for local files; that function is back in the Finder where it belongs. Instead, the new Sherlock is an easy way to search the Web for specific sorts of information: stock prices, local movie schedules, eBay auctions, dictionary definitions and flight schedules (but not for Vancouver). Count on third-party developers to add new functions to this powerful and easy to use application.
While 10.1 could connect to Windows networks, 10.2 beefs up networking, letting Macs now browse Windows networks, share files with Windows users, and automatically find and configure network printers. The networking improvements on their own make this a worthwhile upgrade for businesses mixing Macs and PCs.
Behind the scenes, Rendezvous is a new networking standard aiming to let computers, printers, PDAs, phones, and other gadgets keep in touch without requiring complex user configuration.
The built-in Internet Mail application has been overhauled, adding the best built-in spam filters in the business. A new applet, iChat, adds instant-messaging compatible with the popular AOL Instant Messenger. And a new Address Book works with Mail and with new-generation cell phones.
And that leaves out 140 or so improvements.
Shipping on two CDs, the program installed happily on my far- from-high-end iBook, upgrading the existing OS X installation. There's also an option for a new, clean installation. Unlike Microsoft's latest software, there's no need to enter long serial numbers or contact Apple to activate the installation. The installation broke several third-party interface enhancements that I like to use, but the new, compatible versions were quickly available for download.
Most major Mac applications are now shipping OS X-friendly versions. And OS X 10.2 Jaguar offers new speed, friendlier Windows networking and spam-filtering, along with a bunch of other improvements.
For the estimated 23 million Mac-users who've hesitated, it's a good time to think about making the switch to OS X.
And it's an equally good time for the majority of PC-users to take another look at Apple when they're considering a computer purchase.