In Mac OS X Version 10.3, Apple Computer Inc. combines its latest ideas with pieces drawn from the open-source world, from Mac OS versions past and from operating system rival Microsoft Corp.s Windows. In so doing, Apple delivers whats probably the most polished desktop operating system available today.
Unfortunately, Mac OS X runs only on Apple machines, which significantly limits a companys hardware purchasing options. However, companies running Windows-heavy infrastructures that opt to bring Macintoshes into their mix will find Panther amenable to integration.
Mac OS X now ships with Samba 3 and makes interacting with Windows shares, domains and Active Directory easier than anything this side of Windows.
Version 10.3, which began shipping last month, sells for $129 retail, with no upgrade pricing. Apple does, however, offer volume-priced, three-year maintenance agreements that start at $207 per license and cover all releases during the agreement period.
Panther requires 128MB of RAM and a G3, G4 or G5 processor, which covers most Apple systems of the last several years.
One of Panthers flashiest new features is Exposé, a facility for managing open windows on a desktop. Through Exposé, user-configurable keystrokes prompt all open windows to shrink for easier viewing or to clear out and show the desktop. We could imagine ourselves growing accustomed to Exposé, but wed like to see Apple add support for virtual desktops as well.
Panther comes with an overhauled version of Finder, Apples file manager, which has taken on the steely look that Apples QuickTime has had for some time.
Mac OS X 10.3
Apples Mac OS X 10.3, code-named Panther, is a capable, well-polished alternative to Microsoft Windows that comes ready to be integrated into a Windows-centric infrastructure. It retails for $129, and Apple offers volume-priced three-year maintenance agreements that start at $207 per license and cover all releases during the agreement period.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
Finder now includes a sidebar with links to local disks, network shares and other user-configurable locations—an addition that makes Finder much more useful, particularly with network resources.
In a nod toward Mac OS versions of the past, files and folders in Panthers Finder can be color-labeled and sorted based on these labels.
Although it applies more directly to home users than to business users, we were pleased to see Apple add Windows XP-style fast user switching to Panther, which allows multiple users to be logged on to a machine, taking turns at the helm while inactive sessions continue to run in the background.
Version 10.3 ships with Apples X11 windowing server, which can be installed as an option from Panthers third disk. Previously, the software was available as a separate download. With X11, we could run many applications that dont natively support Mac OS X, such as the OpenOffice productivity suite.
We used Mac OS X with Fink, an application for locating, downloading and compiling open-source apps for the Mac, to acquire additional software for our test system.
Apples included e-mail application now works more closely with Microsofts Exchange, enabling users to fetch groupware data through an Exchange Outlook Web Access server.
Slideshow: A Look Inside Panther
Unlike Ximian Inc.s Evolution groupware application, however, Apples e-mail application cannot retrieve Exchange e-mail in this way. For this, companies must enable IMAP support on their Exchange servers.
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Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at email@example.com.