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Apple preps ‘low key’ MacOS X public beta

Worried about Aqua Aversion, apparently...

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The public beta test release of Apple's upcoming MacOS X may not be quite as public as the company originally suggested. And the final release may not happen quite as soon as planned, either.

Sources close to Apple, cited by MacUser over here in the UK, claim the company is planning something rather more low-key, primarily to minimise bad publicity some company executives feel could harm the operating system's final release.

The problem lies with MacOS X's Aqua user interface, the sources say. Apple wants to get it right before the public beta release, but clearly it won't get the kind of user feedback it needs to make a good job of the UI until it ships the test version.

Apple insiders are concerned that the reputation of the OS may be harmed if the beta release of Aqua isn't up to Mac users' typically high standards. Macatistas tend to be very sure about what they like - and what they don't. Aqua has already received plenty of criticism for its consumer-friendly visual gimmicks. Many seasoned Mac users have also complained that it derives more from the NeXT interface than the classic Mac look and feel.

Then there's Apple's attempt to move away from the more rigid framework of the Mac UI. "Trying to make OS X work flawlessly in harmony with a wide variety of applications and at the same time adjust the interface to give more flexibility, is taking extra time," MacUser's source said. "Bugs are not the problem - it is simply getting input on how it should work."

Getting that right could push the final release of MacOS X right back to March 2001, sources suggest, though we assume the final release is conditional on a positive reaction to the beta test - if that gets the thumbs up, Apple will probably want to get MacOS X out of the door as quickly as possible, not least to stick to at least one promised ship date.

As for the public release, the fanfare that marked its announcement at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference last may is unlikely to be repeated at the end of next month, when the beta release is due. Apple will release the software to the public, said MacUser's source, but won't go out of its way to promote the product. ®

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