For Avie Tevanian, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. For CEO Steve Jobs, it’s “clearly the most important thing we’re doing at Apple.” It’s Mac OS X, the long-awaited upgrade to Macintosh Operating System.
Apple is planning to release a beta version of OS X to the public this summer. Developers also have in hand OS X’s fourth preview version, which contains several changes from the test version Apple has previously shown in public.
Ready, Set, Wait
Apple calls the latest preview version “developer complete,” meaning that software makers now have what they need to create applications that use OS X’s Carbon and Cocoa APIs. “There are no more reasons you shouldn’t be developing [for OS X],” Jobs told attendees at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in May.
But lost in the excitement over that piece of news is the fact that the company has delayed OS X’s launch yet again. Jobs announced in January that a finished version would be ready this summer and that Apple would install the operating system on all Macs starting in January 2001. Now Apple doesn’t expect completion of the final version of OS X before the end of 2000.
Aqua for the Rest of Us
Still, the new developer preview is significant for the changes Apple has made to the Aqua interface. Previous versions of Aqua took a radical departure from Mac OS, but the latest edition of OS X contains several features that Mac users should find familiar.
Developer Preview 4 includes a more Mac-like Finder instead of the Next-style browser that appeared in earlier versions. Also, users can hide the browser tool bar and drag files onto the desktop. This edition restores the Mac OS 9 styles–dropped from previous versions of OS X–and the menu bar now displays the name of the application to which the active window belongs.
The Dock–the area at the bottom of the screen that offers a quick way to access applications, files, and windows–has undergone some tweaks as well. It now stores applications on the left side; files and windows go on the right. You can drag items out of the Dock to remove them, and you can store Web-site URLs there.
OS X also boasts tighter integration between Open GL and Quartz. For example, you can now use Quartz to create a 2-D image that can link with a 3-D Open GL image in a separate window. Modify the 2-D image, and the 3-D window instantly updates.
“We’re creating a new OS and a new generation of applications,” Jobs said.