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Monday, April 2, 2001
On Hardware

Mac OS X — ‘bite’ from Apple…
By Faisal Islam

MEMBERS of the "Apple Mac community" gathered at a London computer showroom last week to celebrate its second coming — the arrival of Mac OS X, Apple’s competitor to Microsoft’s Windows software. And it’s not just the legions of loyal "Mac-heads," who have been waiting for the new operating system. Apple itself has suffered more than most from the softening US economy and made clear strategic mistakes to boot. In the first quarter of its financial year (from October to December), it registered a loss of $ 247 million, its first since the return of founder Steve Jobs as CEO in 1997. After riding high for three years, Apple’s share price tumbled last autumn, when sluggish performance was first revealed. At $ 21, it stands at less than half of September’s level.

This weekend’s release of Mac OS X ("X" is a Roman numeral rather than a letter) crowns Apple’s attempts to draw a line under recent problems and return to profitability in the current quarter. "Mac OS X is the most important software from Apple since the original Macintosh operating system in 1984 that revolutionised the entire industry," says Jobs.

"A plain way of explaining it is that OS X will be doing inside what the iMac has done on the outside. But it’s more than that — it combines the stability with elegance and ease of use," says Pascal Cagni, Apple’s general manager in Europe.


More than 1,00,000 Mac users tested an early version of the software. That process saved the much-loved "Apple button" and clock from extinction.

But the look and foundation of the new system have moved on in most other respects. The software is based on Unix, the industrial-strength operating system used by the Space Shuttle, the military and banks. But Aqua, the front-end, is much more human.

Apple is getting back to basics, so they say, returning to what it has always been loved for — ease of use. The focus on aesthetics has not disappeared but there was always going to be a limit. That appears to be the lesson from the flop of its much-hyped Cube computer, which has sold a fewer than 1,00,000 worldwide despite exciting the design-freaks. Apple has been telling investors that it will focus on these core areas — creative industries, design, education, and SoHo — not the place but users who work in a Small office — Home office.

Apple has been without doubt the lead innovator in the home computer industry - the first to use the graphical user interface that inspired Windows, the first to use CD-ROMs, 3.5 inch floppies, laser printers, and groundbreaking exterior design. Attracting software applications will be key to the success of the format. Microsoft is the highest-profile among 10,000 developers of 20,000 products, says Apple. Bill Gates’ company is producing a new version of its Office software.
One thing we can be sure of is that the attractive look of its new operating system will be imitated. Competitors always seem to get the biggest bite out of Apple’s innovation.

… that keeps videos running

APPLE, which has always been an underdog to computers running Microsoft’s Windows applications, has much riding on the completely redesigned operating system and is still shaking out bugs and tweaking it. With the new system, Apple, with about 4 per cent of the personal-computer market, has a chance to keep pace with market growth, Gartner consultancy group analyst Martin Reynolds said. "This is a very necessary step for Apple," agreed his colleague at Gartner, Chris Le Tocq. The platform is rock solid, using "protected memory" to contain program disasters that otherwise could ripple out and freeze a computer, Apple said.

Another improvement keeps videos and other software running simultaneously — a Holy Grail. It firmly faces the Internet, with features and services that complement the company’s philosophy that the personal computer will survive as the hub of a digital universe.

Apple offers during installation to sign up users for free e-mail and Internet storage, evidence of its focus on the Internet.

OS X also runs Java, an Internet programming language, and produces files in the popular PDF Web-publishing format.

The improvements are apparent immediately. For instance, as soon as an OS X-loaded Titanium notebook is opened, it springs into action from sleep mode, playing a video before the lid is even fully propped up.

It then searches out the best network connection, wireless or hard-wired, office or home, and away you go.

— Reuters