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Apple backtracks on pre-installing MacOS X

Next-gen OS now to be an option for new Macs, not the standard

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Apple will not pre-install Mac OS X on new Mac hardware next January after all - despite CEO Steve Jobs' promise, made earlier this year, that the next-generation operating system will become Apple's standard OS early 2001.

So much for the company's claim that its Mac OS X release schedule hasn't changed - only the names of the products that will ship.

According to Apple's Web site, Jobs this week told attendees of the company's Worldwide Developers Conference that: "We'll be shipping a final [Mac OS X] 1.0 with pre-loading options in January."

Hang on a minute there, Steve. Options? What do you mean, 'options'? Didn't you say back at MacWorld Expo in January that Mac OS X would ship as standard come January 2001?

He sure did. "Mac OS X will go on sale as a shrink-wrapped software product this summer, and will be pre-loaded as the standard operating system on all Macintosh computers beginning in early 2001," according to Apple's 'Mac OS X Unveiled' press release of 5 January 2000.

Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist - or an Apple spin doctor - to realise there's a big difference between 'pre-load options' and 'pre-loaded as standard'. Equally, it's pretty clear that Jobs' WWDC, which have clearly passed most commentators by, mark a major shift in strategy. Apple thinks that either most users won't want a brand new, next generation Mac OS X or - more likely - the thing simply isn't going to ready to offer as a fully fledged, application-rich mainstream OS.

If Apple's claims that Mac OS X is already pretty damn close to a final release candidate - "There is certainly more work to finish off the details of it," senior VP for product marketing Phil Schiller told Reuters on Monday. "There is some fine tuning, but the majority of the product is in place, and it's working beautifully now." - that must mean Apple is concerned that there just aren't going to be sufficient native Mac OS X apps available next January for the company to push the new OS and its prime operating system offering.

Arguably, Mac OS X's ship-date slip - from a summer 2000 release of shrinkwrapped version 1.0 to a January 2001 debut, with the summer seeing a public beta release - is as much about giving developers more time to port their apps over, either to Carbon (the modernised version of the existing Mac OS toolbox) or to Mac OS X's main object-oriented API, Cocoa. Apple trotted out at WWDC a stack of developers who are Carbonising some apps, but the numerous reports from the show from the likes of MacCentral don't really give us much of sense of a major move by developers toward the new OS.

As for hardware companies, who Apple needs to get moving on drivers for the new OS, we've heard barely a word that they're on the Mac OS X case.

All of which suggests Apple's original enthusiasm for Mac OS X is being tempered by the concern that for users who do make the upgrade, there'll be precious little software that will really make the upgrade worth while. And that means Mac OS X could easily become nothing more than an advanced OS for Apple's high-end users, a kind of Windows 2000 to Mac OS 9's Windows 98. From Jobs' MacWorld comments, that's not what the company wants - it wants to pursue a single OS strategy, but is being held back by developers - possibly the same developers whose earlier lukewarm reaction to Apple's Rhapsody OS forced the company to rethink its API plans, which in turn led to the introduction of Carbon. ®

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