Apple to Slam Lid on Mac OS 9

 
 
By Matthew Rothenberg  |  Posted 2002-08-02
 
 
 

Apple to Slam Lid on Mac OS 9


Apple Computer Inc. plans to crank up the heat on users and developers slow to move to Mac OS X, sources told eWEEK. (Editors Note: Read the update to this story in which Apple confirms its plans.)

A tweak to new models in its Macintosh line of desktop and portable computers will prevent booting into Mac OS 9, sources said, leaving the Unix-based Mac OS X as the sole operating system.

Sources said the Mac OS X-only policy will probably be enforced via a software feature in Pinot, the next major Mac OS X update after Jaguar (Mac OS X 10.2), which Apple said will ship Aug. 24. Apple will most likely make the move by Januarys Macworld Expo/San Francisco.

This tweak will not disable the Classic environment, which allows Mac OS 9 to run as a separate process within Mac OS X, providing limited compatibility for older applications. However, it could present a quandary for developers and users alike who rely on Mac OS 9 for their day-to-day work.

Apple was not immediately available to comment on the reports.

For the past year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has signaled publicly to third-party developers that they should turn their attentions solely to Mac OS X and forgo future plans for the legacy system.

At Mays Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., Jobs theatrically eulogized Mac OS 9, rolling a boxed copy out in a coffin while funereal music blared from speakers. Mac OS 9 "isnt dead for our customers yet," he told assembled software and hardware developers, "but its dead to you."

For the most part, developers have responded: Many applications critical to Apples core market of graphics professionals and small businesses, such as Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office, have been updated for Mac OS X. So have numerous pieces of software crucial to professional users in the fields of scientific analysis, architecture and education.

Meanwhile, Apple has wooed consumers with Mac OS X-based "i-apps" such as iMovie, iTunes and iPhoto, and a growing number of cutting-edge games are appearing for Mac OS X only.

Nevertheless, the rate of users converting to Mac OS X as their primary operating system reportedly has not matched Apples projections. And many users, especially in the Macs cornerstone market—enterprise-level publishing—anticipate the OS X-only future as happily as vegetarians would approach dinner at a Texas barbecue joint.

This discontent could signal problems for Apple, especially if it endures through traditional upgrade-buying cycles.

The Quark Question


The Quark Question

"My god, the sky is falling," joked Slade Wentworth, imaging manager at the Miami Herald, which boasts a daily circulation of 350,000. He said that the prospect of Macs that do not boot into Mac OS 9 would lead him to suspend a large part of the newspapers regular hardware-upgrade cycle.

The newspapers production workflow, he explained, is based on a number of applications that he termed "9-reliant," from pre-flighting software to ad-management utilities to custom AppleScripts for importing information from databases. In addition, Wentworth said, the paper has to be able to accept copy and art from a range of clients; making a technological leap could lock out business.

"We need to be as outdated as our clients are," Wentworth said.

And then theres Quark. Macs are the standard for production and design at most print publications from daily newspapers to monthly magazines. And a large majority of these publications rely on one application, QuarkXPress from Quark Inc., for layout and other production purposes. For better or worse, the publishing industry depends on the strategies of these two companies, which dont always work to the same purposes.

To date, Denver-based Quark has not produced a version of XPress that is tuned to Mac OS Xs Carbon APIs to run "native" under the new OS.

XPress 5.0, the current version, runs either in Mac OS 9 or in the Classic environment. Even more complicated, most publications also depend on third-party helper utilities—XTensions—that plug into XPress and expand its capabilities, from adding graphics widgets to siphoning in data from outside sources.

Although Wentworth said he has heard reports of a Carbonized XPress 6.0 that might be ready as early as January, hell need even more to switch to Mac OS X. Quark told eWEEK this week that XTensions will also have to be recompiled and reinstalled for compatibility with the new application.

Wentworth said that he cant afford for one piece of the complex chain of software that runs the Heralds production chain to break, as early indications suggest may happen if the newspaper runs Mac OS 9 software within Mac OS Xs Classic environment.

Still, Wentworth said he can understand Apples no-9 move. "It would be a bold statement to drive the agenda for software developers," he said. However, he added, "we have to wait until all the software developers deliver. Until all pieces fall into place, were not making the move."

This reluctance could be costly for Apple. Wentworth said that like most newspapers, the Herald buys new Macs every year, rotating out up to one-third. "We have a capital plan for new Macs in January," he said, "but if they dont boot to Mac OS 9, we wont buy except for a few machines for testing and development."

"It all looks like a race," Wentworth said, referring to the situation with developers. He said that even if QuarkXPress 6.0 is out in January to accompany no-9 Macs, hes still going to have to wait until every XTension and every other piece of software he bases his work upon is ready to go to Mac OS X before he can recommend the Herald, too, makes the jump.

Wentworths position probably typifies the industry, said David Dray, the executive director of the Society for News Design, an organization comprising more than 2,500 members.

"I dont know of any newspapers using Mac OS X because theres no version of QuarkXPress for it," he said, noting that of the 32 papers he recently polled, 28 used that application. In addition, Gray said, its not just Quark; theres a "whole raft of stuff" that remains incompatible with Mac OS X and faces problems when run in Classic rather than native Mac OS 9 mode. He noted that any foot-dragging among publishers would hurt Apple especially, since his statistics showed that Macs are used at 85 percent of publishers.

On the Developers Side


On the Developers Side

What of the software developers Wentworth, Gray and others are waiting on?

According to Peter McClard, CEO and president of Gluon Inc., a Maplewood, N.J.-based developer of plug-ins for QuarkXPress and other applications, revising their products for the move to Mac OS X will not be a major problem. "Weve had a couple of our XTensions that provide a bridge to Adobe Photoshop break" when the version of Adobes image-editing application is running native on Mac OS X at the same time XPress is running in Classic. "Other than that, its been flawless," he said.

The process, so far, he said, has consisted mainly of recompiling their products to Apples Carbon set of APIs. Compared to this, he said, the move from XPress 3 to 4 was "a big headache."

However, McClard said he realizes that it may not be so easy for all XTensions, especially those that work with old file formats, database connectivity and the like. In addition, he said, hes sure that the forced march to using Classic instead of Mac OS 9 booting will have repercussions for complex workflows.

These sentiments were echoed by Dennis McGuire, CEO of Managing Editor Inc., which makes XPress and Adobe InDesign XTensions and plug-ins designed for high-end publishing use. McGuire also said that other problems might slow the Carbonization of ancillary but critical software, which would in turn slow the "every piece in place" requirements of people like Wentworth.

"No one wants to be the first to update an XTension," said Bob Baldwin, the Jenkintown, Pa., companys vice president of technology. "Then theres a fix for QuarkXPress, the XTension breaks ..." he said, noting that developers face the same challenges creating plug-ins for Adobe software.

"This is part of the game," McGuire interjected. "Were not complaining."

This "after you" dance, McGuire said, is just one reason high-end publishers havent embraced Mac OS X. Because of the "deadline-critical" nature of their work, he said, "publishers are never the first to adopt Apple of Quark technology."

As if to prove the point, Wentworth said that if Apple does indeed eliminate the Mac OS 9 boot option, his company will purchase only one or two machines as test beds; it could be a year, he said, "until were satisfied."

Matthew Rothenberg is online editor for Ziff Davis Medias Baseline and CIO Insight magazines.

Daniel Drew Turner, a frequent contributor to eWEEK, can be reached at ddtword@pacbell.net.

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