Apple "interim" CEO Steve Jobs startled the Mac community last week when he announced yet another major shift in the direction of the Mac OS.
This time the victim is Rhapsody, Apple's fully modern Mac operating system that was to replace Systems 7 and 8. The operating system is the underlying software that runs your Mac, just as Windows runs a PC. The jilted Rhapsody will yield to Mac OS X (that's the Roman numeral 10, not the letter "x") in 1999.
Rhapsody was born of Apple's December 1996 acquisition of NeXT, Steve Jobs' post-Apple venture. Apple had planned to use the advanced NeXT operating system as the foundation for Rhapsody.
Apple bought NeXT because its attempt to overhaul System 7, code-named Copland, had stalled beyond salvation. The Cupertino brain trust torpedoed Copland in August 1996 after three years of effort and $300 million in development costs.
Mac OS X will give everyone the benefits of a modern system, with some caveats.
Apple has indicated that Mac OS X will run only on G3 Macs or later. So it appears the Power Mac you bought one or two years ago doesn't have a ticket to the OS X party. Owners of the earlier, 68K-based Macs need not apply, either.
An article on MacAddict's Web site (www.macaddict.com) theorized that Apple wants to make Mac OS X compatible with as many Power Mac models as it can, but hasn't had time to figure out how far back it can go. So it's possible that OS X eventually will be made compatible with all those PowerPC 604 and 603-based Macs, and perhaps 601 systems, too.
Another question is whether this new OS will run all that Mac software you've collected over the years. Jobs said 90 of the 100 applications Apple tested ran on the new system kernel - a promising sign.
Apple apparently intends to make the new OS as backward compatible as it can, but you can bet a lot of stuff won't run on it. Mac OS 8, a less drastic upgrade than OS X, had a lot of compatibility problems, particularly with utility programs.
As with Mac OS 8, however, upgrades for major programs facing compatibility woes with should appear concurrently with or soon after the system's release.
In fact, one of the key advantages of OS X over Rhapsody is the ease with which software developers will be able to convert Mac programs to the new system.
Meanwhile, Apple says it will continue upgrades for Mac OS 8. The version, code-named Allegro, scheduled for a summer release as Mac OS 8.2, now becomes Mac OS 8.5. Another upgrade, Mac OS 8.6 (Sonata) remains slated for fall 1999.
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! Pub date: 5/18/98