Core OS Differences From Apple

Mac OS X's new direction could be a rough ride for Mac faithful

With the release of Apple Computer Inc.s Mac OS X, Macintosh users for the first time have a modern operating system that combines the power of BSD 4.4 Unix with the flexibility of the Mac GUI.

However, veteran Mac users trying Mac OS X for the first time might feel like theyve come home to find that strangers have gone through their house, painted the walls attractive colors and rearranged the furniture.

Further, as a completely rebuilt operating system, Mac OS X showed some rough edges in eWeek Labs tests and will require a longer learning curve than Mac OS 9. We therefore recommend that enterprise users deploy it on a pilot or case-by-case basis.

Mac OS X, which shipped late last month for $129, is to Mac OS 9 what Windows 2000 is to Windows 98 but based on Unix.

The underlying architecture of Mac OS X is Unixs Darwin open-source core, which integrates BSD Unix and the Mach 3.0 kernel. This is the first time that a Unix-based operating system is being marketed as a popular desktop system for consumers—Linux and its plethora of interfaces notwithstanding. Finally, Mac users have an operating system that includes pre-emptive multitasking with multithreaded processes, protected memory space and symmetric multiprocessing support.

As powerful as Mac OS X proved itself in tests, we dont believe every Mac user should upgrade immediately. Mac OS X runs only on Apple-branded G3 and G4 computers and requires Mac OS 9.1 with 128MB of system RAM. It wont ship on Mac systems until this summer.

We have no such reservations for Unix users, however, because theyll get the best of both worlds—the ease of use of the Mac and the familiarity of Unix—if they upgrade now.

Apple has made several smart moves that will help users make the transition from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. Along with the Mac OS X CD, Apple includes a Mac OS 9.1 installer CD and another CD loaded with Java2 and ObjectiveC developer tools, so users can immediately start building their own custom Mac OS X applications.

OS X was easy to install and rock-solid in tests: We never experienced a system crash. Thats not to say that applications didnt crash, but when they did, they didnt bring down the entire system.

Apple has layered its proprietary interface on top of the Darwin foundation to give Mac OS X a Mac look and feel—most of the time. Unix is directly available via the Terminal application, which gives users command-line access to a full-blown Unix system.