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The history of Apple Mac OS X

The origins of Apple's successful OS

Ten years after its beta debuted, we look at where the ultra-successful Apple Mac OS X operating system came from

Enter OS X

By 1999, the public knew about the shift from Rhapsody to OS X, along with vague notions about the under-the-hood changes involved. What the public didn't know was that, since the summer of 1998, Apple had been secretly developing a vibrant and fluid new graphical interface for Rhapsody named 'Aqua'. It was during Aqua's development that the philosophical shift from Rhapsody to OS X took place.

After catching flack from developers over Rhapsody, Apple realised it needed a dramatically different approach to win converts to OS X, and Aqua was a key part of that. "Aqua became a visible selling point for people to move to the new OS," Tevanian recalled. "If you just said, 'Well, it kinda works a little better underneath,' not many people would care."

Steve Jobs unveiled Aqua to the oohs and aahs of a stunned audience, jaws agape, during his January 2000 Macworld Expo keynote speech. The delighted, newly full-time CEO - Jobs also dropped the 'interim' label from his iCEO title that day - spent a large portion of his presentation demonstrating graphically stunning new features of Aqua, including the 'genie' minimise/maximise effect, Dock magnification, and lushly illustrated, high resolution icons. The world had never seen anything like it, and Apple found itself - for the first time in at least a decade - with an operating system that people could not wait to get their hands on.

In September of that year, Apple obliged. According to Tevanian, the company knew that for a release as important, dramatic, and different as an entirely new OS, the company couldn't just keep the beta testing process under wraps. Apple needed to get the OS out into as many hands as possible so ordinary users run it through its paces in ways the company itself couldn't imagine. Apple set the price of 'Mac OS X Public Beta', low enough so anyone could get it if they wanted, but high enough to exclude folks who might not be constructive to the beta testing process. The beta sold through Apple's online store; the company later offered a $30 (£19) discount on the first full release of OS X (v10.0) when it shipped in 2001.

When users got their hands on the Public Beta, reviews were mixed but optimistic. It was obvious that OS X represented a promising future for Apple, but the company still had a long way to go in terms of producing a fully mature OS. Apple collected bug reports and ideas for its new beta through an internet-enabled suggestion box in the Apple menu.

NEXT PAGE: The OS X legacy

  1. The origins of Apple's successful OS
  2. The NeXT connection
  3. Rhapsody
  4. Enter OS X
  5. The OS X legacy


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