Apple to Slam Lid on Mac OS 9

By January, owners of new Macs will have to run Mac OS X, sources report. Where does that leave pro users still waiting for native software?

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.