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How Mac OS X changed Apple's world

Jonny Evans | March 28, 2011
Ten years ago today (24 March 2011) and Apple's first full public version of Mac OS X went on sale worldwide to a gleeful reception as thousands of Mac users attended special events at their local computer shops all across the planet.

Now NeXT was at Apple, work really began. Perhaps someone somewhere has a copy of the Apple turnaround road map. But even at this stage Jobs had decided the company would move to implement the NeXT OS, would develop a retail presence with a series of highly stylized stores (the NeXT offices were also fabulously "arty"), would introduce new concepts in computer design....and would eventually run on Intel processors.

The NeXT OS was ported to both PowerPC and Intel processors in Apple's labs under the code name 'Rhapsody'. There were a bunch of development tools ('Cocoa') while Apple also built an environment called 'Blue Box' ('Carbon', now defunct) which delivered backwards compatibility to the OS, allowing older applications to run.

Better than all the rest

This was a very important event. Apple now held an advanced OS everyone -- including Microsoft -- had tried and failed to emulate; it also meant Apple had a future ten-year plan, and a product to market strategy that should ensure that, at least at first, no Mac user need be left behind.

It is worth noting Apple's execution in all of this. Take for example the move to field a succession of well-received iMac and iBook computers in advance of the OS X release. This was incredibly smart because it both built the company's profile while also ensuring that when the OS launched there was an existing ecosystem of technologically-compatible Macs which could run the OS, immediately boosting adoption.

And oh, what an adoption rate we saw. On my way to the London launch party back in 2001 I came across an Italian Mac user banging on the door of a Micro Anvika branch. "I need it! Let me in! I have to have it!" he yelled as he hammered at his magic portal. I gently sympathized with him and pointed out that the Micro Anvika branch he needed to visit was ten minutes walk up the Tottenham Court Road.

The lost but Mac-passionate Italian reflected everyone's excitement. Fabio De Rosa, a freelance graphic designer, said: "I had to be here. It's an historic moment. I eat, breathe and sleep Mac."

A historic moment

Inside the shop a rapt audience of Mac users, developers, retailers and Apple staff stood to attention as Apple UK's popular and charming MD, Mark Rogers, modestly delivered a presentation which showed us what the OS could do.

The early release was quickly condemned for being a 'public beta', we all understood that change had to come, and it was exciting to be part of it. The need to add features including DVD playback and CD burning as well as ironing out a few wrinkles (cough: kernel panic, anyone?) meant Apple didn't begin shipping OS X as the default OS on all Macs until the release of Mac OS X 10.1, 'Puma'.


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