Mac OS X looking good, but not supported by much
The high-tech office
by ALAN ZISMAN
Originally published in Business in
May 22, 2001
Mac OS X
looking good, but not supported by much
Last January, this column looked at a
prerelease version of Apple's
bet-the-company operating system, OS X (pronounced oh-ess-ten).
It was colourful and appealing, stable and powerful. But it was also
different from the way generations of Macintosh users had learned to
Apple listened to its beta-testers. In the
official release at the end
of March it keeps all its power, rainbow colours and special effects,
has also been made more, well, Mac-like.
Drive icons appear on the desktop, where users
expect them to be. Finder
windows open in a familiar large icon view instead of the new column
While the preview version's menu bar sported a nonfunctional icon of a
blue apple in the middle, now the blue apple's back in the corner, once
again a working Apple Menu.
It still features full-colour 3D icons and the
Dock, like the Windows
taskbar, but oh so much cuter.
The Dock sports icons instead of words which
magnify when you pass the
mouse over them and seem to jump for joy if you pick one of them. (If
find this sort of thing annoying, it can be turned down or off.)
There are lots of nice features built in; my
favourite is the Print
Preview dialogue that allows users to save in Adobe Acrobat PDF format,
for distribution as an electronic document.
Apple's developers tossed out the decade of
Mac operating system code. Instead, OS X is built on top of Unix,
it modern memory management, multitasking and stability. With its
Aqua interface, it is the friendliest Unix around, but serious Unix
can still get underneath to tinker with its guts.
Starting fresh carries penalties, in this case a
lack of compatibility
with past generations of hardware and software. OS X ($199) requires a
G3 processor with at least 128 MB of memory and a gigabyte of free
space. Out of the box, it lacks support for popular technologies such
CD-recordable, DVD and DVD-rewritable drives. Apple is scrambling on
and has already released two upgrades that speed performance and add
for CD-R drives. OS X automatically upgrades itself over the Internet.
Applications have to be rewritten to support OS
X's features, however,
and few have been.
A preview version of Microsoft's
Internet Explorer is included
in the box and a link to a page on Apple's Web site in the new blue
Menu makes it easy to find what's new and downloadable. A developer's
CD ships in the box, in case you want to roll your own OS X
But Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop
and virtually all the Mac
software users rely on are not yet out in OS X versions. Most previous
versions will still run, but in so-called Classic Mode, running on top
of the previous OS 9.1. (A copy of OS 9.1 is included in the OS X box.)
In Classic Mode, you get back the old, multistriped Apple Menu and lose
nice OS X features such as being able to create PDF files.
For the minority of applications that won't work
even in Classic Mode
(on my system, Virtual PC and Dave Windows networking), it's easy to
to the real OS 9.1.
Despite its official release, OS X is still a
work in progress. Apple
is adding features and doesn't expect to pre-install it on their own
until the summer. Software developers are busy working on native OS X
of their programs.
If you're a real Mac fanatic, you can get it now
and enjoy its glitz
while still getting your work done in Classic Mode.
But while it is the future of the Mac, most
users should wait until
there's more support for the hardware and software they use.