Mac to the Future

Mac OS X: the Big Change

Kel Taylor - 2000.03.07

Steve Jobs has shaken up the computer industry quite a bit in the past few years. The iMac changed computer exterior design from bland boxes to colorful cases. The iBook has proven to be a big success, ranking among the top portable iBookcomputers in recent months. However, these triumphs will appear to be minor footnotes compared to the upcoming course change. Mac OS X, long awaited and coming soon, is the Macintosh that Steve Jobs always intended. When the Apple board of directors ousted him in the 80's, he built a new OS called NeXT. Mac OS X borrows from Steve's alternate operating system in addition to UNIX and the current Mac OS. OS X demands major processing power, so only owners of G3 or G4 Macs with at the very least 64 MB of memory will have the option of upgrading. However, even the early sub-300 MHz G3s should run OS X adequately.

The transition should be smooth - both for upgrading Mac users and for converting Windows users. Any applications that run under Mac OS 9 will operate in the "Classic" mode in OS X. The Dock will take place of popup windows that some Mac users (like me) put to excellent use, storing commonly used files and application aliases.

The Finder will be the most dramatic difference for current Mac users. First of all, there will be no drives on the desktop, at least from what is shown in the developer previews. They will be on a level in the Finder. From there, opening a folder or drive can either spring open another window, as it currently does, or display the contents in the same Finder window. This strongly resembles Windows, but not quite. The similarities are enough, however, to make conversion simple and sweet for current Windows users. Terms such as minimize and maximize are a good adaptation for the Mac OS. Although being different is the slogan, being too different is just not good for sales.

As far as the Roman Numeral X standing for 10, it has caused some problems, though not addressed anywhere I've read. Many people refer to it as OS X, pronouncing the letter "X" instead of the number "10." Also, what names will the next versions have? It will be impossible to upgrade to an OS 10.0.1, since there is no Roman Numeral for "0". Will OS 10.5 be OS X.V? My only worry is that the upgrades will be like Windows: mysterious and unnamed. Microsoft upgraded Windows 95 numerous times before Windows 98, but didn't change the number. I am hoping that Apple will not do the same.

The new OS will have excellent reliability. With protected memory on all Carbon and Cocoa applications, system crashes will become a thing of the past. Also, virtual memory will automatically activate as it is needed, so "out of memory" dialogs will also have a spot in Mac history books. The new interface, Aqua, although despised by some, will attract more users than just about any other feature. You can probably catch it in movies this summer. Aqua, simply put, is art. It creates an organic, flowing interface which soothes the eye with beauty. Some denounce it as "eye candy." Yeah, that's what they said about the iMac. If you have to sit in front of a computer most or even part of the day, do you want a dull gray rigid interface staring at you, or one that almost comes to life? If you don't like Aqua, do me and everyone else a favor and don't gripe about it. I've read too many irate reader posts on MacCentral, and it gets kinda old.

Interfaces must and will continue to change with time. Can you imagine computers a hundred years from now even using graphic interfaces? I certainly hope that my great-grandchildren's computer will operate in the background of life, not sitting on a desk. Apple and the Macintosh must change with time.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with sticking to OS 9 or even 8. They will do the same things they do now. I plan to keep my current computer running Mac OS 9. I'll either install Mac OS X on a new computer or just wait until I can buy a Mac with it preinstalled.

Mac OS X, arriving in stores at midyear and on new Macs starting in 2001 (we hope), will change the computer industry in ways the iMac could only dream of. Steve Jobs has given us high expectations, and I feel that those expectations are not bloated. The transfer will be the maker or the breaker. Hopefully it will go by smoothly. If so, Apple will undoubtedly gain market share, perhaps beyond to 15% by 2002; if not, may God help us.

Although, I'm not qualified to make these kind of economic predictions, I'm just telling you what I think. I'm looking forward to change. It's the only way to advance. Hopefully the Mac faithful share my opinion.

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