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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

As usual, it was the third-party developers, entrenched in their familiar Mac programming ways, who needed the most convincing. A big part of Apple's post-Rhapsody development approach was to emphasise a combination of the seamless 'Classic' system environment (that would run all classic OS apps) and a new Carbon API that would allow easy porting of classic OS apps to OS X. Thanks to those changes, developers started to come around.; Apple had finally made it easy and attractive enough for them to convert their applications to the new OS.

Moreover, developers saw the writing on the wall. Steve Jobs made it clear in January of 2000 that Apple would be pursuing a single OS strategy. The Classic Mac OS, while it would be supported for some time, was an evolutionary dead end. Within a year, he announced, Apple would ship OS X by default on all new Macs sold. That date got pushed back a bit, but it ultimately came to pass, and OS X was on its way to a widespread install base whether Apple fans liked it or not. (And some had to be dragged kicking and screaming.)

The OS X legacy

These days, OS X is a widely admired phenomenon that has been through many iterations and updates. It is the heart and soul of Apple's software strategy, and in hindsight, OS X proved to be an essential investment to ensure the continued viability of the Macintosh platform. It continues to fill its duties quite well.

But how long will it last? Tevanian, who left Apple in 2006, is surprised and delighted at how flexible OS X and his clever little kernel (part of which still resides in OS X today) turned out to be. After all, he says, OS X runs on a wide range of hardware, from industrial strength servers to desktops to even iPhones and iPods. Apple had a 20 to 30 year lifespan in mind for OS X during its development, says Tevanian, but he suspects its fundamental underpinnings may last even longer. Only time will tell.

Ultimately, all operating systems become obsolete, but for now - even ten years after its commercial debut - we're still living in the golden age of OS X.

See also: 10 features Windows stole from Mac OS

  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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