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Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 16:15 GMT
Apple - back to the future
Apple iMac advert
The iMac helped Apple back on the road to success
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson

In 1984, Apple took on the giant of the computing world, Big Blue, also known as IBM. The firm released its Macintosh operating system.

The now famous 60-second advertisement launched a new era of personal computing and brought the graphical user interface, or GUI pronounced as gooey, to personal computers.

Steve Jobs and his insanely great computer won over a cult following and sold lots of computers.

Now more than 15 years after the introduction of the Macintosh, Apple will release not merely an update, but a much-delayed major overhaul of its operating system.

The update is key to the continued recovery of the company.

Losing ground, standing still

A lot has changed since 1984.

They [Apple] are not going to say throw out your Windows machine. It's too expensive of a war to wage.

Lou Mazzucchelli
Gerard Klauer Mattison
Apple lost its bitter legal battle with Microsoft over the look and feel of the GUI, and Microsoft successfully transitioned from the arcane command line world of DOS to successive generations of Windows that brought the point-and-click ease to PCs.

This cut into the ease-of-use edge that the Macintosh operating system had as one of its key selling points.

Apple loses its shine

Apple fell on turbulent times, and critical efforts to update the operating system floundered.
Steve Jobs at Apple show
Steve Jobs recently dropped the "interim" before his chief executive title at Apple
In 1996, after more than $400m in research and development, Apple scrapped the release of the code-named Copland update to the operating system.

The company decided to go shopping for a new operating system technology to jumpstart its efforts.

After talks broke off with Be, they bought NeXT for $400m and brought Apple co-founder Steve Jobs back into the fold.


Copland gave way to Rhapsody, and Rhapsody gave way to Max OS X, pronounced 10.

One disgruntled Mac columnist said that 10 represents the number of years that users have been waiting for the operating system.

The look and feel of the operating have been refined, but the guts of the operating system received the long overdue refurbishment.

Transition underway

Apple says it now has begun a 12-month transition to OS X.
Apple facts
Founded: 3 January 1977
Headquarter: Cupertino, California
Sales in Q1/1999: $1.71bn
Net income Q1/1999: $152m
Staff: 8,800 worldwide
Steve Jobs debuted OS X with a new "Aqua" interface at the MacWorld conference in January.

The interface featured a fluid look and powerful graphics technologies based on Adobe's Portable Document Format, OpenGL and Apple's own QuickTime technology.

The interface also has a "dock" that will hold resizable icons for drives, folders, applications and documents.

Guts overhauled

But the interface, in some ways, is window dressing for the major changes inside the operating system.

The new operating system has a new Unix-friendly core, the Mach 3.0 kernel, but does support legacy Mac OS 9 applications. It will also have an object-oriented programming environment inherited from NeXT.

The kernel is based on the BSD version of Unix, "so if you are a Unix hacker, you can go to town," says Lou Mazzucchelli, a long-time Apple analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison and Company.

The operating system will support protected memory, which for the user means that "applications won't step on each other".

If one application crashes, other applications will continue to run.

Niche or new markets?

Some Apple watchers think that the company might add a business line to its current consumer and professional lines of computers.

But whether Apple tries to extend its reach beyond its traditional graphics, education and consumer-focused markets depends largely on "whether they choose to spend marketing dollars," says Lou Mazzucchelli.

He expects Apple to market OS X as "easier to administer and easier to run" than the competition.

They also might market it to small businesses to run intranets or web servers.

One thing that he believes Apple will not do is to aggressively go after Microsoft.

"They are not going to say throw out your Windows machine. It's too expensive of a war to wage."

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See also:

06 Jan 00 | Business
Jobs bites the Apple
13 Oct 99 | The Company File
Apple beats expectations
06 Oct 99 | The Company File
Apple unveils new iMac range
03 Aug 99 | The Company File
'Free' iMac latest weapon in Internet war
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