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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.

March 24, 2001 was still a good start. Simon Smith, Micro Anvika's Macintosh manager, told me: "I think OS X's features are great, it's very easy to use. It will be excellent for first-time buyers, but has so much to offer to advanced users. It's the applications we are waiting for."

Apple's then PR manager, David Millar, said: "We expected a good turnout, and everyone I've been talking to has been a professional designer, Web animator or programmer. We have an audience of professionals here."

Event attendance was excellent -- around 500 people showed-up that evening -- that may not sound like many people at all, in these days of retail store queues for every Apple launch, but this was the pre-iPod world, people. Things really were different then. Sales of the OS were -- to coin a phrase -- insanely great. Similar events in other countries saw Mac fans produce OS X-shaped cakes. There was a real energy across the Cult of Mac.

Developers, developers

Fast forward just four months to July 2001, and Apple's VP Worldwide Developer Relations, Ron Okamoto, said: "In a short amount of time we have seen incredible growth in our developer community and the number of Mac OS X applications now tops 1,000. Every major Mac software company sees a huge opportunity and is bringing applications to Mac OS X, while new developers are helping broaden the applications available to Mac users around the world."

Today and we see each successive release of OS X causing Apple's Mac audience to grow, not shrink. When Apple stormed into Sony's world with the introduction of the iPod a few months later in October 2001, Apple's fortunes really began to transform.

The PowerPC problem

Apple's OS couldn't hide some legacy disadvantages. The new operating system was more advanced than anything anyone else had to offer, (bar perhaps some breeds of Linux at the time), but it still ran on slow, under-powered Power PC machines.

Despite all the claims to the contrary, Apple's sales seriously suffered on the conception that PowerPC computers were slower and less capable than their Intel competition. Things had to change -- and, as was planned from the beginning, on June 6, 2005, they did. That's when Apple announced a move to Intel processors, a transition it completed by August 2006.

The later move to introduce an iPhone in 2007 (though an earlier attempt to make a 2005 launch of an Apple mobile device was shelved at the eleventh hour) consolidated the position. It also meant Apple now offered a version of a NeXT-based operating system for both Macs and mobile devices.

What's coming next?


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