Writing for BusinessWeek, columnist Charles Haddad has explained
Why Apple Can’t Pull the Plug on OS 9
in his latest
Byte of the Apple
column. The long and short of it? Too many users and too much software is still dependent on Mac OS 9 to put ‘Ole Betsy’ to pasture any time soon.
Haddad suggested that Apple can “ill afford” the drain of resources needed to maintain a dual operating system indefinitely, as Microsoft has done for a decade and half with DOS. He said that Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ effort to focus on core technologies “has been a winning strategy, producing such home runs as the iMac, the Titanium PowerBook, iTunes, and iMovie,” and that supporting an older operating system doesn’t fit that strategy.
Regardless, Apple won’t kill off Mac OS 9 right away, said Haddad. Key applications like Office and Photoshop aren’t yet publicly available for Mac OS X, and many niche applications — custom software used in business, for example — have yet to make the migration. Many folks are just unable or unwilling to buy and learn a new OS, as well. “Apple really has no choice but to wait and see if OS X replacements spring up for these niche programs,” said Haddad.
Haddad said that it isn’t inertia that’s preventing many of these developers from supporting Mac OS X, it’s the tools — many are waiting for Mac OS X development tools to mature to the point where it’s easier to develop applications for OS X than it has been in the past. Early adoption and past experience with the underlying tools in OS X is giving some developers a jump on original development, “But the lion’s share of Mac developers are unfamiliar with Cocoa. It will take them a while not only to learn Cocoa but to get comfortable with it, no matter how much easier Cocoa is to use. That’s just beginning to occur now,” said Haddad.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs likens Mac OS X’s full-scale adoption to the hourly ticks of a clock — during his most recent appearance at Seybold Seminars in San Francisco, he said that we’re at about 6 o’clock, and calls Mac OS X 10.1 the “mainstream” release that is ready for general use. The implication is that by Mac OS X’s first anniversary next March, the operating system should be ubiquitous. Haddad takes a more conservative approach — he said that Mac OS X will hit “critical mass” in about 18 more months, after Microsoft and other major software vendors get their collective act together.