ISSUE 502: The high-tech office- June
Both Apple and Microsoft system upgrades
will break away from current standards
In last week's column, we started to look at
the plans both Microsoft and Apple have for the future
of your computer. Each offers a new, but modest update of their current
My take, both on Microsoft's Windows 98 Second Edition
and Apple's Mac OS 8.6, is that both pieces of software deliver what
they promise, but neither is compelling enough that most of us need go
out of our way to get them.
But both companies have bigger things in store for the
near future with plans to offer more goodies for the new versions of
their operating systems. It is, however, at the cost of a clear break
with current standards.
(As an aside, I find it interesting how similar the
plans of these often bitter rivals seem to be.)
In terms of Apple, ever since the company purchased Steve
Jobs' NeXT company, it has promised to merge NeXT's
advanced operating system features with the familiar Mac look and feel.
Now the operating system is known as "OS X" (as in the Roman numeral
X-Files). Built on top of the Unix-
like Mach kernal, the NeXT OS offers the heavy-duty multitasking and
stability that the Mac has lacked in comparison to its Windows
It's not a big deal to get such features to run on
Apple's hardware. For example, users can already get a version of Linux
to run on a PowerMac. The trick, however, has been to give it a
Mac-like front end, while enabling users to continue running their
collection of Mac applications.
Apple promises that OS X will manage to be all things
to all users, at least for those users who own G3 Macs. Older
applications will continue to run, though probably not very fast and
without the benefits of OS X's more powerful multitasking and crash
Many older applications, Apple suggests, can be easily
rewritten using the company's Carbon programming technology, which runs
efficiently under both old and new Mac operating systems. Finally,
Apple hopes to see new applications written specifically for OS X, but
which won't run at all on older Mac hardware and software.
Look for the general release of OS X late in 1999 or
early next year.
OS X Server is out now, providing the friendly Mac
interface on top of powerful network server software. The software
alone costs about $600 and a hardware/software bundle runs about
OS X Server is a good choice for Mac-only shops and an
appealing choice for an Internet server. But because there is a lack of
direct support for Windows machines, don't expect it to be popular
serving networks with a mix of machines.
Microsoft's Windows 2000 (W2K--and hold the jokes
comparing W2K to Y2K, please) seems to be debuting in about the same
time frame as OS X. Look for a fall general release (there have been
hints of October 6 as the target date).
Despite the name, it's not a successor to the
company's current Windows 98. In fact, Microsoft isn't targeting home
and small business Windows 95/98 users as potential upgraders.
Instead, W2K is the successor to the company's NT 4.0
and, like that version, is aimed primarily at large enterprises.
The product will be sold in a range of versions,
including the desktop version, Windows 2000 Professional, and Server,
Advanced Server and Datacenter versions
for increasingly large enterprise
W2K aims to add Plug and Play technology to the NT
platform, which will allow it to support a wider range of hardware
add-ons than the current version. Active Directory on the Server
versions aims to make it easier for NT network administrators
to manage large groups
of users, printers and
Microsoft is promising big improvements in
reliability, including far fewer "blue screens of death" that plague
current NT systems, and less need to reboot when adding software,
hardware or network services. W2K also promises to better protect
system DLL files, thereby solving a frequent cause
of problems in current Windows systems.
Unlike Apple, Microsoft is making W2K widely available
even far in advance of the software's release. Microsoft's Corporate
Preview Program is offering the chance to buy a copy of Beta 3, a
software version that's still in the testing stage.
About $95 gets you a copy of the Server version with a
licence to install the Professional version on up to five desktops.
More than 500,000 copies have been sold, with several computer
manufacturers offering customers the option of getting Beta 3
pre-installed on new systems.
While I haven't tested Beta 3, word on the street is
that as a desktop operating system, W2K Professional is solid, and
close to being ready for release. The Server version and,
in particular, the Active Directory features are not there yet, but
that's why they call it a beta release. Be aware that not all Windows
applications can be guaranteed to run under W2K. There are problems
even with some applications that work under the current NT 4.0.
If you want to try W2K, check www.microsoft.com/canada/cpp/.